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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Pain Therapy TENS & EMS: How It Works and How to Apply

A wireless pain relief from iTENS with small wing gel pads

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) are popular treatment options for different types of conditions. Pain therapy using TENS & EMS works by delivering electrical pulses. This electrical stimulation functions in different ways: pain gating, the release of endorphins, and improving blood flow. Accordingly, the therapy is easy to apply. One needs to place the electrode pads, modify the settings, and activate the stimulation.

The occurrence of a variety of conditions can be incredibly difficult. It can affect every aspect of life, from work to simple daily activities. Traditional pain management methods often fall short, leaving many people hopeless. Fortunately, there are TENS and EMS to alleviate pain issues. These non-invasive therapies can provide relief without the use of medication or surgery. This article will present how TENS and EMS work, how to apply the device, and the safety precautions.

Pain Therapy Using TENS & EMS – How It Works

Pain therapy using TENS & EMS both use electronic devices to deliver stimulation. Both therapies work by streaming electrical impulses on the body through adhesive electrodes on the skin. When a person uses TENS, the electrical currents target the nerves beneath the skin. The pulses help to interfere with the pain signals travelling to the brain. This aspect reduces the perception of pain symptoms.

Accordingly, it can stimulate the body to release endorphins. These are the natural chemicals of the body that act as natural painkillers. The mechanism can help to further alleviate ailments and improve mood. Also, this can promote a sense of well-being. On the other hand, EMS focuses on stimulating muscle contractions.

The electrical pulses can help improve muscle strength and promote muscle relaxation. Moreover, the stimulation can impact blood circulation. The currents can cause muscles to contract, eliminating poor blood circulation. As a result, this can help deliver more oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, while also aiding in the removal of waste products. Thus, it can contribute to healing.

Conditions that the Therapy Can Treat

TENS and EMS are a method of pain relief for the following conditions:

  • Acute pain – these are sudden conditions resulting from arm pain, ankle pain, sports injuries, headaches, or menstrual cramps.
  • Chronic pain – it is a persistent and ongoing pain. This can include conditions like neck pain, shoulder pain, leg pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
  • Joint pain – the therapies can be beneficial in treating knee pain, osteoarthritis, or overuse injuries.
  • Nerve ailments – this is often seen in conditions like diabetic neuropathy or sciatica.
  • Muscle pain – EMS therapy can be particularly useful for treating muscle-related ailments, muscle tension, and dysfunction.

A woman manually operating TENS on her arms

Pain Therapy Using TENS & EMS – How to Apply

Applying pain therapy using TENS & EMS requires simple steps. Before each use, check the batteries of the device to see if it is fully charged or has fresh batteries. Connect the electrodes to the unit using wires or a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless models. Then, position electrodes in the treatment areas. Make sure to follow the advisable pad placement.

After that, the user can turn on the machine. Some devices may require the person to adjust the settings. This may include modifying the frequencyintensity level, and duration. Also, some units allow users to choose from the pre-set programs. This enables a more direct approach to treating a specific condition. It is advisable to start with the lowest intensity and moderately increase it to a comfortable level.

Next, activate the electrical stimulation. The user may begin to experience a tingling sensation from the machine. During the therapy, it is essential to take note of every reaction of the body. After the session, turn off the device and remove the electrode pads carefully. It is vital to store the device and its accessories properly for future use.

Proper Pad Placement

Proper pad placement is crucial when using TENS and EMS devices. To ensure effective and safe treatment, it is important to place the pads correctly on the body. The placement will vary depending on the specific area being targeted and the desired outcome. Nevertheless, it is vital to clean and dry the skin before placing the electrodes.

Additionally, it is essential to provide gaps between the pads. For instance, for lower back pain, place the pads on either side of the spine. If the pain is in the knee, position pads above and below the knee on the quadriceps and calf muscles.

A woman placing a small wing TENS on the back of another person

Pain Therapy Using TENS & EMS – Safety Precautions

When applying pain therapy using TENS & EMS, it is important to follow safety precautions. Before starting the treatment, it is vital for the individual to consult with a medical professional. They can provide guidance on whether TENS or EMS is appropriate for the specific condition. Accordingly, it is crucial to adhere to the proper pad placement.

It is essential to follow the guidance of the healthcare professionals or the device manual to ensure that the electrodes are placed in the appropriate locations. When using TENS and EMS, do not start with high settings. This can cause discomfort and electrical shocks. Thus, adjust the levels accordingly just to the comfort level. Also, adhere to the advisable duration of the treatment.

Using the devices for a longer duration than advisable can lead to overstimulation and potential adverse effects. People with certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy and heart problems, should consult a professional before use. Moreover, do not use the device while driving, sleeping, operating machinery, or in contact with water.

Areas to Avoid

In positioning the electrodes, there are certain areas of the body to avoid. It is crucial to not apply the pads over the eyes, head, or mouth. Also, the front of the neck is an area to avoid. The sensitive nature of these areas makes them unsuitable for stimulation.

Applying TENS or EMS directly over the chest and heart region is also not advisable. The electrical currents can interfere with the natural rhythms of the heart. Additionally, it is crucial to avoid placing electrodes on broken skin or wounds. This can potentially exacerbate the skin condition.


Overall, pain therapy using TENS & EMS is an effective and non-invasive method for managing and relieving pain. TENS works by blocking pain signals from reaching the brain and stimulating the release of endorphins. EMS, on the other hand, stimulate the muscles, promoting relaxation and improving blood circulation. Nevertheless, both therapies deliver electrical pulses to activate the mechanisms. Hence, it can address different conditions like menstrual cramps, arthritisknee pain, and muscle tension.

Accordingly, the therapy is simple to apply. Users need to position the electrodes, modify the settings, choose a pre-set program, and activate the stimulation. However, it is crucial to know the safety precautions. Also, do not place the electrodes on sensitive areas of the body. This may involve eyes, mouth, head, chest, throat, and broken skin. Some retailers, like iTENS Australia, offer a combination of TENS, EMS, and massage functions. This enables a more convenient treatment approach.

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