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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS For Neuropathic Pain: General Overview

An elderly man holding his knee

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS for neuropathic pain is a device that helps people with nerve pain by sending electrical currents through electrode pads. These currents interrupt the pain signals going to the brain and can make the body release natural painkillers called endorphins. To use a TENS unit for the treatment of pain, people should clean the area they want to target, attach the pads, and adjust the settings to their comfort.

Neuropathic pain refers to a type of chronic pain that is caused by damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. It affects daily life, making it difficult to work, sleep, or engage in activities. Managing neuropathic pain is challenging, but there are treatments available, like medications, physical therapy, and TENS therapy. This article provides information on understanding neuropathic pain before using TENS, explaining how TENS works, and providing instructions on how to use it.

Understanding the Condition Before Using TENS for Neuropathic Pain

Before using TENS for neuropathic pain in patients, they must have a clear understanding of their condition. Neuropathic pain is a chronic medical condition that arises from damage or dysfunction within the nervous system. Conditions like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries, as well as certain medications or infections, can trigger this discomfort.

The symptoms of neuropathic pain can vary greatly from person to person. However, some common symptoms include shooting or burning pains, numbness and heightened sensitivity to touch. The pain is often a sharp, electric-like, or even stabbing sensation. Additionally, individuals with neuropathic pain may experience muscle weakness or loss of coordination, sleep disturbances, and emotional distress.

TENS can help relieve neuropathic pain in adults by delivering mild electrical impulses through electrode placement on the skin. These mild electrical stimulation target the sensory nerves in the treated area and reduce pain sensations. This method of pain relief can manage various neuropathic conditions, including diabetic neuropathy, peripheral neuropathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, radicular pain, and more.

Risk Factors

The risk factors for developing neuropathic pain include:

  • Diabetes: high blood sugar levels can damage nerves over time, leading to persistent pain in people.
  • Age: older individuals are more prone because of the natural aging process, which can cause nerve damage or degeneration.
  • Injury or trauma: this can include accidents, falls, or surgical procedures.
  • Infections: certain infections like shingles or HIV can damage nerves.
  • Alcohol consumption: excessive alcohol consumption can lead to nerve damage.
  • Vitamin deficiencies: deficiencies in certain vitamins, such as vitamin B12, can impair nerve function.
  • Autoimmune diseases: conditions like multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis can result in nerve damage.

An elderly woman reading a book while wearing iTENS on her wrist

How TENS for Neuropathic Pain Works to Provide Relief

TENS for neuropathic pain works by tapping into the Pain Gate Control Theory. This theory proposes that the TENS device disrupts pain signals heading to the brain through electrical currents. To achieve this, the device utilises high-frequency TENS electrical impulses, usually between 50 to 150 Hz. This is particularly effective for acute or intense painful conditions.

The effectiveness of TENS therapy also stems from its ability to prompt the release of endorphins, the natural pain relievers. By employing low-frequency electrical stimulation, typically ranging from 2 to 5 Hz, the electronic device triggers the production of endorphins. This mechanism is advantageous for individuals dealing with chronic pain. It offers a more sustained and natural solution to enhance their overall pain control and quality of life.

Furthermore, many TENS devices feature preset modes designed for specific body parts and conditions. These modes, including burst mode, continuous mode, and modulation mode, tailor the TENS session to the needs of the users. Such customisable options contribute to the reduction in pain intensity and establish TENS as a valuable tool in managing neuropathic pain in people.

Advantages Over Other Treatment Options

TENS offers several advantages over other active treatment options in providing pain relief. Firstly, TENS is non-invasive, meaning that it does not require any surgical procedures or invasive techniques. Secondly, TENS allows for personalised control and flexibility in their therapy sessions. People can adjust the intensity and frequency of the electrical impulses.

Thirdly, TENS devices are portable, allowing people in pain to use these units at home or on the go. This gives them the freedom to manage their pain whenever and wherever they need it. Such flexibility empowers individuals to actively participate in their pain management, enhancing their overall quality of life.

A workflow on how to operate the iTENS app

How to Operate TENS for Neuropathic Pain

When operating a TENS for neuropathic pain, the first step is to ensure that the treatment area is clean. This involves gently washing the area with mild soap and water to remove any dirt or oils. It is important to dry the area thoroughly before proceeding.

The next step is to attach the electrodes to the treatment area. These electrodes are small pads that adhere to the skin and deliver electrical nerve stimulation. Users should place the pads in the correct position, guided by the location of the pain. The TENS unit will typically come with instructions indicating the electrode positions for different types of pain.

After attaching the pads, people may program the settings on the TENS unit. Typically, there will be options to adjust the intensity, frequency, and duration of the electric nerve stimulation. Health professionals recommend starting at low-intensity settings and gradually increasing it if necessary. The frequency and duration may also be adjusted based on the needs and preferences of an individual.

Safety Considerations When Using TENS

There are some safety considerations that people should prioritise when incorporating TENS into daily life for the relief of pain. Firstly, seeking advice from a medical professional before using the device is crucial. This ensures proper guidance on the intervention and the correct settings.

Secondly, users must avoid placing TENS pads on open wounds or broken skin. The electrical stimulation could potentially interfere with the healing process and lead to further skin irritation. Thirdly, people should steer clear of sensitive areas, such as the head, eyes, throat, spine, and regions near varicose veins. Direct stimulation in these areas may worsen conditions or cause complications.


In conclusion, neuropathic pain is a persistent health condition resulting from damage or dysfunction within the nervous system. TENS for neuropathic pain emerges as a practical solution. By leveraging the Pain Gate Control Theory, TENS disrupts pain signals using high-frequency electrical impulses. Additionally, it induces the release of endorphins through low-frequency stimulation, offering sustained relief for chronic pain. Customisable modes in TENS devices cater to specific conditions, enhancing its effectiveness.

When operating a TENS unit, one must begin by cleaning the treatment area and properly attaching the electrodes. They can then adjust the settings cautiously, starting with low intensity. More importantly, users should follow some safety measures. These include consulting a medical professional beforehand, avoiding placement on open wounds or sensitive areas, and steering clear of regions near varicose veins. By prioritising these precautions, individuals can effectively and safely integrate TENS into their daily pain relief routines.

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