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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

Migraine TENS Machine: How to Use the Device for Effective Relief?

A woman resting her forehead on her hand

Migraine is a neurological disease that affects millions of people worldwide. They can last for a few hours and can be chronic or recurring. People with chronic migraine consider many pain relief options, including the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine. It uses electrical currents to relieve hypersensitive nerves. To use a migraine TENS machine, place the adhesive electrodes on the back of the neck and adjust the settings low and gradually increase.

Finding effective ways to relieve migraine is essential for people with the debilitating condition. There are various treatment methods, such as medications, heat therapy, and lifestyle modifications. However, a TENS machine works directly on the nerves, giving immediate effects. It is a non-drug strategy for those who do not want to rely on medications. In the following sections, we will delve into the functions of TENS machines, how to use them, and the safety considerations.

What is a TENS Machine for Migraine?

A migraine TENS machine is a battery-operated device with a control unit and sets of electrode pads. The unit allows adjustment of settings to cater to different headache levels. it works by delivering low-voltage electrical currents through the electrodes to stimulate the sensory nerves. Consequently, it blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

In addition, the electrical impulses trigger the release of endorphins, the natural painkillers of the body. This can help reduce the headache intensity and even prevent future episodes. Moreover, a TENS device for migraine comes in two types: standard (wired) and wireless. A wireless TENS unit utilises a Bluetooth connection (instead of lead wires) to control the stimulation from a smartphone app.

One of the main advantages of using an electrical nerve stimulator is that it is a non-invasive and drug-free method of pain relief. This can be advantageous for individuals with frequent migraine attacks or chronic tension-type headaches. Furthermore, it can be beneficial for those who cannot tolerate traditional migraine treatments like medications.

Prevalence and Impacts of Migraine Headaches

  • Migraine headaches are a prevalent neurological disorder and are one of the major public health concerns globally.
  • There are a variety of factors that contribute to its high prevalence, including genetics, lack of sleep, skipped meals, hormones, and environmental triggers.
  • They are a disabling condition that can significantly impact the quality of life. Migraine causes severe pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Migraine sufferers often experience impairments in daily activities, such as work, school, and social interactions.
  • The economic burden of migraine pain is substantial, including direct healthcare costs, lost productivity, and diminished well-being.

A woman placing her hands on her nape

How to Use a TENS Machine for Migraine

Operating a TENS machine for migraine pain relief is relatively easy. As a general guide, the first step is to place the electrode pads on both sides of the cervical spine. Once in place, turn on the device and adjust the settings starting at the lowest level. Those with acute migraine attacks may set the frequency between 80-120 Hz.

On the other hand, low frequencies between 2-10 Hz are most effective for episodic migraine. Additionally, it is best to start with a low intensity and increase the level in small increments to find the optimal setting that provides pain relief without causing discomfort. Moreover, set the treatment duration for 30 minutes at a time.

During the TENS session, it is essential to find a comfortable and quiet environment to relax in. Many migraine patients find it helpful to close their eyes, take deep breaths, and engage in relaxation techniques to enhance the benefits of TENS. Furthermore, users may experience a tingling or pulsating sensation, but it should not be painful.

Pad Placement for Effective Relief

Proper electrode placement is crucial for safe and effective migraine relief. It is recommended to place the pads on the back of the neck and on both sides of the spinal cord. This area is known as the cervical spine, where it can stimulate the nerve endings related to migraine and tension headaches.

Some may also locate the acupoint of the trigeminal nerve for indirect stimulation. In addition, it is important to avoid placing the electrodes directly on the head, as it may worsen the condition. Lastly, it is best to use smaller pads for precise stimulation and to prevent affecting nearby tissues.

Two sets of iTENS small TENS pads

Safety Considerations When Using a TENS Machine for Migraine

Following certain safety precautions is vital when using a migraine TENS machine. Firstly, it is important to consult a health professional before using the medical device. TENS therapy may not be suitable for everyone, including pregnant women and those with heart conditions, epilepsy, and cognitive impairments. The effects may also vary from person to person, so a professional can help determine the appropriate settings.

Secondly, always start at the lowest intensity to prevent sudden flow of the electric current or cause overstimulation. While muscle twitches are normal, they should not cause strong contractions. In relation, do not exceed the recommended treatment parameters to avoid any adverse effects.

Thirdly, avoid prolonged usage. Keep the migraine treatment to 60-minute sessions at most and at low-frequency levels. However, for those who need longer sessions, it is important to take breaks in between to prevent overuse. Additionally, avoid certain activities while using the device, such as showering, sleeping, or driving. Lastly, check the device regularly, including the wires, electrodes, and batteries, for any signs of damage before use.

Potential Side Effects

While TENS machines are generally safe and well-tolerated, there are minimal side effects to be aware of. One of the common side effects is skin irritation or redness at the site of electrode placement. This is due to the adhesives of the electrodes. In most cases, they subside after removing the pads.

Another potential side effect is muscle soreness. It may occur if the intensity level is too high or if the treatment duration is too long. To avoid them, ensure the skin or treatment area is clean before applying the electrodes and limit the duration of use. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.


Using a TENS machine for migraine can be a cost-effective solution to achieve pain relief. The device works using mild electrical impulses to stimulate the sensory nerves and block pain. It has adjustable settings to control the intensity and frequency of the electrical impulses, allowing users to customise their treatment according to their needs. Consequently, it helps reduce the severity of pain and even reduce the frequency of attacks.

Moreover, knowing the proper usage is essential for safe and optimal results. Individuals may consult a professional for guidance, including where to place the pads for effective use. Furthermore, following the safety considerations help prevent unwanted risks or side effects. It is important to avoid sensitive areas, such as the temples, head, throat, spine, and chest, as these regions may trigger unpleasant sensations. Finally, regular use of the device for migraine treatment can significantly improve the quality of life.

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