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Professionally endorsed

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Nerve Therapy Machine: What It Is, How It Works, and How To Use

An elderly woman using TENS on her arm

There has been a growing interest in alternative therapies for nerve-related issues. A nerve therapy machine is a promising solution that stimulates the nerves to promote healing and temporarily alleviate pain. It uses externally applied electrodes to deliver electrical stimulation to the body. By adjusting the setting, this stimulation may block the transmission of pain messages and induce endorphin production. To begin therapy, users must place the electrodes near or on the pain area and then start the machine.

Nerve therapy is also known as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It is a pain management method that many health professionals use to help their patients during rehabilitation. Today, people can also buy these machines in pharmacies or online. This allows for convenient pain relief at any time. It also helps decrease dependency on pain medications. This article will present the definition of a TENS machine, how it works, and how to use it.

What is a Nerve Therapy Machine

A nerve therapy machine is a medical device that uses electrical currents to provide pain relief for various nerve-related conditions and injuries. It is also known as a TENS machine. TENS therapy is a non-invasive and drug-free pain management method that many people use. Although doctors and physical therapists commonly use these in medical settings, portable versions are available for at-home use.

Generally, there are two types of TENS machines. Wired or traditional units are commonly seen in hospitals and therapy clinics. These use lead cables to connect the controller and power source to the electrode pads. The individual must ensure the cables are connected to avoid incidents throughout the session. Some devices can connect to up to eight electrodes.

Meanwhile, many use wireless TENS machines for their convenience. They remove the restrictions of wires by using Bluetooth to connect the controller and the electrode patches. Furthermore, wireless units are more portable and easy to use in various places. People may also do simple activities during the session while wearing them.

Treatable Conditions

TENS machines provide effective analgesia for many acute and chronic pain conditions. Here are some of them:

  • Diabetic neuropathy from nerve damage due to diabetes. It results in aches and numbness in the legs, feet, and hands.
  • Sciatica occurs because of injury or pressure to the sciatic nerve. It causes radiating aches from the lower back to the leg.
  • Sports injuries, like tennis elbow and muscle strains and sprains.
  • Migraines or throbbing headaches that last for days.
  • Period pain is typically felt at the start of the menstrual cycle.
  • Labour pain is commonly felt in the lower abdomen and back.

A person placing a large iTENS electrode on the lower back

How a Nerve Therapy Machine Works

A nerve therapy machine uses the electrode patches attached to deliver electric currents to the targeted area. It can relieve different types of pain depending on the settings used. Furthermore, it is drug-free, so many people benefit from it. Users may adjust the intensity, frequency, and pulse width settings. In addition, they may select from preset modes tailored for different body parts and conditions.

Generally, high-frequency stimulation (50-120 Hz) triggers the spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This is the mechanism suggested in the Gate Control theory of Pain. This is suitable for acute pain conditions because it takes effect within 30 minutes for most people. In some cases, it may even happen immediately.

Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) triggers the production of endogenous opioids. These painkilling hormones build up and relieve pain in the targeted area. This process may take about 40 minutes. However, its effects last hours after the session. This is why many people use it for chronic pain conditions. It is crucial to remember that TENS does not treat the underlying cause.

Advantages Over Other Treatment Methods

TENS machines are growing in popularity because of their advantages over treatment methods. Many use it to reduce or replace their intake of pain medication because it has no lasting side effects. Meanwhile, pain medicines may cause allergic reactions, nausea, headaches, and stomach bleeding. Moreover, in the long term, it can cause heart, kidney, and liver damage.

Furthermore, TENS therapy is complementary to other treatment methods. Endorphins produced during therapy improve moods and reduce inflammation. This can help the individual undergoing therapy become more active. In addition, TENS has a massage-like effect using high frequencies. This increases blood flow and stimulates healing.

A woman operating the iTENS electrodes on her shoulder

How to Use a Nerve Therapy Machine

Before using a nerve therapy machine, individuals may consult a healthcare professional for advice on the regularity, settings, and duration. In addition, they may study the instructions from the device manufacturer to further understand how to use it. Generally, TENS machines are easy to use without medical supervision. Regardless, preparation ensures safety.

Individuals can wash their skin with soap and water to maintain hygiene and remove excess body oils. Then, they may place the electrode pads near or on the source of the aches. Once the pads are secure, they can turn the unit on low settings. This is to avoid electric shocks and discomfort. Then, they may gradually increase the settings or select a preset mode.

Sessions typically last between 20 to 30 minutes. This depends on the level of settings used and the condition they are treating. However, people must avoid overusing the unit to prevent skin irritation, muscle spasms, or mild burns. Once the time elapses, the user must turn the machine off. Then, they can remove the electrode patches.

Pad Placement Instructions and Areas to Avoid

Users may refer to an electrode placement chart or guide to know where to attach the pads. One example is to place the pads on the forearm to the wrist to address wrist pain. Meanwhile, for knee pain, attach the adhesives around the muscle area of the knee. Generally, users may place them on muscle areas near or on the origin of the pain.

However, individuals must carefully avoid sensitive areas to prevent adverse effects. This includes the throat, chest, and spinal cord. Furthermore, they should avoid placing adhesives on irritated, infected, or broken skin. This is because it may cause the condition to worsen.


In conclusion, a nerve therapy machine is an alternative method of pain relief that many people benefit from. It uses electric stimulation to trigger endorphin production and the spinal nerve cells to block pain signals. Furthermore, it helps treat acute and chronic pain conditions like diabetic neuropathy and sciatica. Although it cannot directly treat the underlying condition, it may help stimulate healing. Consulting a healthcare professional before using TENS is crucial to ensure safety.

Moreover, users must observe proper pad placement and follow the instructions from the device manufacturer. There are many FDA-cleared wired and wireless options available in the market. People may purchase them online or in pharmacies without medical prescriptions. Many choose wireless options for their convenience. There are also specialised units for specific conditions. One prospect for a wireless TENS machine is the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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