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Professionally endorsed

TENS Acupuncture Machine: What It Is, How it Works, and General Precautions

Large and long wing iTENS electrodes and refill gel pads

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a form of electrotherapy. A TENS acupuncture machine uses electrode clips to attach to acupuncture needles. These electrode clips are connected to a TENS device that produces electric currents through wires. These provide stimulation to the muscles surrounding the needle. Additionally, it triggers spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. It also stimulates the production of endorphins. However, the needles may cause pain upon insertion or skin infection.

Acupuncture is one form of traditional Chinese medicine. Many use it as a complementary therapy to conventional medicine. By adding electrical stimulation using TENS, some may experience enhanced positive effects. Practitioners often use electroacupuncture to treat arthritis, muscle strains, and chronic stress. However, it is vital to consult a healthcare professional before undergoing electrotherapy. This article will discuss what an electroacupuncture machine is, how it works, and the general precautions.

What is a TENS Acupuncture Machine

A TENS acupuncture machine combines acupuncture with TENS therapy. It is also known as electroacupuncture (EA). Traditional acupuncture uses thin needles attached to specific pressure points. In electroacupuncture, small electrode clips are attached to two nearby needles. These clips have wires connecting them to the controller. This device sends the electrical current to the electrodes. EA enhances the traditional method using this electrical stimulation during the session.

Additionally, needles do not have to be nearby for electrodes to be attached. The acupuncturist decides which needles to attach the electrodes to. After they place the electrodes, electrical stimulation reaches the muscles around the two points. This form of TENS machine should not cause pain. However, the person may feel a light tingling sensation.

After the session, some may feel muscle fatigue for up to 24 hours. It is recommended to do some light exercise if their condition permits it. Not all acupuncturists offer this treatment. Thus, it is best to research reliable facilities that provide EA.

Procedure for Using Electroacupuncture

This is the usual procedure for an EA session:

  • The acupuncturist will ask the individual about their symptoms and medical history.
  • Then, they will evaluate the symptoms and select the pressure points for the session.
  • Afterwards, the acupuncturist inserts thin needles at the acupuncture points until they reach the needed depth.
  • Electrode clips will be placed on the needles to connect them to the EA machine.
  • The acupuncturist will switch on the machine at a low voltage and gradually increase it.
  • After the session, the acupuncturist will turn off the machine and remove the needles.

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How a TENS Acupuncture Machine Works

Traditional acupuncture practitioners believe that blocked or disrupted flow of qi (energy) adversely impacts well-being. Acupuncture uses needles to release the energy and eliminate the blockage. Often, acupuncturists turn or wobble the needles to provide stimulation. However, a TENS acupuncture machine uses electric currents to generate the stimulation.

The acupuncturist controls the settings of an EA machine using a controller. Different frequencies and intensities produce varying effects. Moreover, electric stimulation may trigger spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from travelling to the brain. This results in a lessened perception of pain. Additionally, the electric currents may also induce the production of endorphins. These painkilling hormones reduce inflammation and pain in the area.

Furthermore, some claim that EA triggers the body to release mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). They are adult stem cells typically found in the bone marrow that help create tissues. These cells also help during the healing process. Lastly, EA may increase blood flow to the area. These assist warm the muscles and resolve blockages.

Conditions Suitable for Electroacupuncture

There are many conditions which EA can provide relief for. Firstly, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes painful joint swelling. Secondly, frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis occurs when a capsule containing the shoulder joint thickens. Thirdly, chronic stress is an overwhelming sense of pressure over a long period.

Additionally, it helps reduce the occurrence of muscle spasms. Moreover, it aids with various kinds of acute pain caused by sprains, muscle tears, and wounds. Furthermore, it is helpful for repetitive strain injuries like Achilles tendonitis, tennis elbow, and back strains. Lastly, some use it for chemotherapy-related nausea.

A woman holding her pained neck with her right hand

General Precautions for TENS Acupuncture Machine

A TENS acupuncture machine uses electrical stimulation that may be incompatible with some. It is vital to consult a healthcare professional before using this treatment. This is because some people have medical conditions that negatively react to electrotherapy. For example, people with metal and electrical implants should avoid using TENS. Moreover, those with a history of seizures, heart disease, stroke, and cancer should abstain from using TENS. Likewise, pregnant women should avoid using TENS before labour.

Additionally, the needles used in EA have a slim chance of causing infections. If the voltage is too strong, tissue and nerve damage is possible. The needles may also cause light bleeding or pain upon insertion. Furthermore, some may feel discomfort due to the electrical stimulation.

In addition, it may also cause low blood pressure, resulting in fainting or vomiting after the treatment. Lastly, EA should not be performed on damaged, irritated, or infected skin. This is because electrical stimulation may cause these conditions to worsen.

Using Wireless TENS as an Alternative

Some may use handheld or wireless TENS machines as an alternative to EA. These devices are available for purchase online and in physical stores. Furthermore, they do not require medical supervision while undergoing a session. With these types of TENS machines, users place electrode pads externally on the skin.

A TENS machine produces similar effects to EA using high and low-frequency stimulation. However, using a wireless TENS machine, the user is free to do other activities. Moreover, they may be worn discreetly under clothing. These provide convenient pain relief at any time. Lastly, they are possible alternatives to pain medication.


Using a TENS acupuncture machine requires going to an acupuncturist for a session. It is vital to determine that the acupuncturist is accredited to ensure safety. Moreover, these medical practitioners will determine if EA is apt for the individual. During the session, the practitioner will insert needles on specific acupuncture pressure points. Then, they will attach electrode clips to begin low-voltage stimulation. They may increase the settings to trigger the natural processes of relieving pain.

Using electrical stimulation may enhance the traditional experience of acupuncture therapy. However, the individual should state if they are feeling uncomfortable during the process. Furthermore, needles may cause pain upon insertion. They may also cause slight bleeding or infections in rare cases. Thus, some people may benefit from using wired or wireless TENS machines. The iTENS from iTENS Australia is a reliable and FDA-cleared wireless TENS machine.

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