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Professionally endorsed

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TENS Device Period Pain – Is It Effective?

Woman holding pressing her stomach

Many women seek pain relief during their menstrual period. One of the emerging methods is the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It is a therapy that applies mild electrical currents to the pain. Moreover, a TENS device for period pain is effective in reducing the severity of menstrual cramps. It enables women to manage pain while remaining active during their period. In addition, the adjustable settings of the unit allow individuals to customise their treatment based on their comfort level.

People with period pain often experience cramping, aching, or throbbing sensations in the lower abdomen. During a menstrual cycle, these sensations can range from mild to severe. For some individuals, the pain may be so intense that it interrupts their daily activities. Hence, pain management is vital. In this article, we will explore the effectiveness of TENS for menstrual pain, including its operating guidelines, benefits, and safety measures.

How to Use a TENS Device for Period Pain

Operating a TENS device for period pain is easy to follow. It consists of a set of adhesive pads. Traditional machines have a handheld control unit, while others are wireless with Bluetooth connectivity. Additionally, TENS therapy involves skin preparation. It is vital to clean the treatment area with water and pat it dry. Remove any oils, lotions, or dirt that may affect the conductivity of the electrodes.

To start treatment, place the electrode pads on the skin around the painful area. Then, turn on the device and adjust the settings. Start with the lowest intensity and gradually increase to a comfortable level. For period pain, the ideal treatment duration is 15-30 minutes. 

After the session, turn off the device and remove the electrodes from the skin. For persistent dull aches, women may use the device longer but no more than one hour at a time. Individuals may also use the TENS machine several times a day. However, ensure to give at least a 20-minute break between sessions to allow the skin to rest. 

Instructions on Proper Pad Placement

  • Place the TENS pads below the belly button and above the pubic region.
  • Position the electrodes on either side of the lower abdomen. Depending on the number of pads, spread them out evenly one inch apart from each other.
  • Make sure that the pads are positioned in opposite directions to create a current towards the centre of the pain. 
  • Alternatively, some may place the electrodes on the lower back to relieve back pain. 
  • Position the electrode pads on either side of the spine above the buttocks. 
  • Avoid pad placement on broken skin, open wounds, or numb areas.

Using the TENS machine through a smartphone app

Benefits of Using a TENS Device for Period Pain

The primary benefit of using a TENS device for period pain is that it is drug-free and non-invasive. The electrical impulses help combat intense menstrual cramps and reduce their severity. The electrical shocks can generate noticeable pulses but are mild enough not to cause further pain. This enables the body to minimise pain perception with period pain medicines.

Since TENS therapy is a natural method of pain relief, it does not have the side effects often associated with medications. Therefore, individuals may use the TENS machine frequently without risk of long-term adverse effects or dependency. Moreover, the unit is controllable to suit individual needs, giving users a sense of control over their cure for pain.

The TENS device is portable and lightweight. It is easy to carry and use anywhere. In particular, wireless TENS units like the iTENS are more compact and discreet. It can be worn underneath clothes without attracting attention. Hence, it allows women to manage menstrual pain while working or doing physical activities.

How it Works

A TENS device targets the sensory nerves responsible for carrying messages to the brain. It works based on two kinds of stimulation: motor and sensory level. In motor-level stimulation, the machine uses low frequencies (2-10 Hz) to trigger the production of endorphins. It also helps relax the muscles and reduce swelling.

The second method is sensory-level stimulation. It utilises high frequencies (50-120 Hz) to hinder the transmission of pain signals in the spinal cord going to the brain. This is based on the Pain Gate Control Theory, wherein certain types of nerves control the flow of pain messages.

Woman using a wireless TENS machine on the back while holding a smartphone

Safety Precautions When Using a TENS Device for Period Pain

Before using a TENS device for period pain, it is essential to know the safety precautions to ensure optimal results. Generally, follow the recommended intensity levels of the therapy. Extremely high currents may cause discomfort or skin irritation. Start with a low intensity to allow the body to acclimatise to the electrical pulses.

Moreover, do not overuse the device. Prolonged electrode placement may lead to skin burns and nerve damage. When placing the electrodes, make sure they do not overlap. Also, be aware of potential side effects, such as redness and rashes. When this occurs, turn off the device and remove the pads. People with sensitive skin may opt for hypoallergenic gel pads to minimise the likelihood of allergic reactions.

Furthermore, always inspect the TENS machine before use. Avoid using electrode pads that do not stick firmly to the skin. Likewise, ensure the wires do not have any visible signs of damage. After each use, clean the electrodes and store the device properly to prolong its life. Lastly, do not use the device while bathing, sleeping, and driving. 

When to See a Doctor

Most people can safely use a TENS unit without complications. However, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using the machine. This is especially true for people with heart conditions, epilepsy, or pacemakers. The electrical stimulation may trigger seizures or interfere with electrical-implanted devices.

Equally important, consult a doctor experiencing severe pain or if there are signs of infection. Unusual patterns of menstrual cramps or pelvic pain may indicate an underlying condition, such as endometriosis pain or uterine fibroids. When these happen, it is best to seek medical advice to get proper treatment.


A TENS device for period pain offers a safe, non-invasive, and drug-free method for menstrual cramps and other discomforts. The machine delivers modulated electric currents to the skin to stimulate the sensory nerves. This helps to block pain signals and release endorphins, the natural pain analgesic of the body. Therefore, it lessens the perception of pain without medicines. Moreover, the device is easy to use. Individuals should put the electrodes on the abdomen or lower back and adjust the settings.

The programmable settings of the TENS device allow for customised treatment. It gives users a sense of control over their pain relief, minimising the risks of side effects. Nevertheless, it is vital to follow the safety precautions to prevent unwanted harm. For instance, do not turn the intensity too high to avoid skin irritation or nerve damage. Additionally, do not use the device while bathing, sleeping, or driving. Lastly, consult a health professional to ensure TENS is an appropriate therapy.

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