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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS for Period Cramps: How It Works to Relieve Pain

A woman clutching her pained abdomen

Many women experience painful periods and even cramps during the start of their monthly cycle. To alleviate these aches, some turn to pain medicines or home remedies, like using hot water bottles. Individuals may also use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for relief. Using TENS for period cramps triggers the body to produce endorphins and stimulates the spinal nerve cells to block pain signals. Overall, it helps reduce the overall pain sensations felt.

TENS machines are portable devices that are easy to administer. Simply place the electrodes on the pain area and adjust the settings using the controller. They may apply the pads on the lower abdomen for menstrual pain. However, consulting a healthcare professional is recommended before using TENS. They may give a proper assessment and determine if TENS suits the health condition. This article will present what TENS is, how it works, and some safety guidelines.

What is a TENS for Period Cramps?

A TENS for period cramps is an electronic device that sends electric currents to the body. These currents are delivered using adhesive electrode pads applied on the skin. TENS machines are portable, making them a convenient option for managing menstrual pain. They are also available in pharmacies, medical supply stores, and online.

Many women experience period pain at the start of their menstrual cycle. It occurs when the muscular walls of the uterus contract strenuously to help the shedding of the uterus lining. In this period, blood vessels become compressed, resulting in a lessened supply of blood and oxygen to the womb. This leads to aches in the lower abdomen, lower back, and inner thighs.

Fortunately, TENS can provide non-invasive pain relief. People may select from wired or wireless options. Wired or handheld units are often seen in hospitals and therapy clinics. These use lead cables to connect the electrode pads to the controller and power source. Meanwhile, wireless units use Bluetooth technology to control the electrode output.

Standard Features of the Device

These are some standard features that people may find on TENS machines:

  • Adjustable settings: most TENS units have adjustable intensity, frequency, and pulse-width settings. This provides versatile and comfortable relief.
  • Portable design: many units are designed for easy use at home and in various locations. This enables convenient pain relief from period pain even while on the go.
  • Reusable pads: many pads can be used up to 15 times. Moreover, regular maintenance of adhesives can extend this.
  • Battery-operated: some require replaceable batteries, while some have rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable units usually come with USB cords for charging.

A guide on how to use the iTENS app

How Does a TENS for Period Cramps Work?

A TENS for period cramps works by stimulating the body processes for relieving pain. It mainly does this in two ways. Using high-frequency stimulation (50-150 Hz) triggers the spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This is the pain gating mechanism described in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It helps best with sudden and intense acute pain conditions. This is because it takes effect quickly.

Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) is slower but provides longer-lasting effects. This is because this setting triggers the production of endogenous opioids. These hormones are natural pain relievers that build up and reduce the overall pain level. Moreover, these can improve moods, decrease stress, and reduce inflammation. This setting is ideal for chronic pain conditions.

TENS is a drug-free pain management method that many women may benefit from. Moreover, using it is easy and does not require medical supervision. To start a session, the user must place the electrodes near or on the pain source. Then, they can adjust the settings according to their comfort level.

Pad Placement for Effective Relief

Proper electrode placement is crucial for TENS therapy. This ensures the electrical current reaches the targeted area. Generally, users place pads on muscles near the pain source. For period cramps, they can apply the adhesives in the lower abdomen. The ideal area is below the belly button and above the pubic region. This is because this is where most women feel menstrual cramps.

To ease lower back discomfort, users may place pads on either side of the back. Applying pads on both sides is also feasible. However, they must carefully avoid the spinal cord. In addition, the electrodes should be at least one inch apart.

A woman experiencing intense period cramps

Safety Guidelines When Using a TENS for Period Cramps

It is crucial to adhere to safety guidelines when using TENS for period cramps. Foremost, people should consult health professionals before using an electrotherapy device. They may assess the individual and ensure that TENS suits them. After all, some have conditions that negatively react to electrical pulses. This includes those with a history of cancer, epilepsy, seizures, and heart disease.

Moreover, individuals must study the instruction manual provided by the product manufacturer. This can increase understanding of how to use the machine and prevent possible misuse. Users must also stay alert while using TENS. They should avoid sleeping or doing safety-sensitive activities that require concentration. This includes driving and operating heavy machinery.

Furthermore, users must avoid contact with water during their TENS therapy session. This is because the contact may cause an electric shock that damages the machine. Moreover, it is crucial to avoid exceeding the prescribed time for a TENS session. This is because it can lead to some adverse effects.

Are There Risks of Adverse Effects?

TENS therapy is generally safe for many people. However, some may experience adverse effects from TENS. One common side effect is allergic reactions. This is usually caused by the adhesive materials or the pads themselves. To prevent this, people may use hypoallergenic pads.

Moreover, some experience mild tingling sensations and muscle twitching while using high frequencies. This typically goes away after some time, but it is recommended to lower the intensity or stop the session if this occurs. Lastly, overusing a TENS machine can lead to skin irritation, burns, and nerve and muscle damage. Limit the session to less than one hour.


Using TENS for period cramps is an effective method of pain relief. It offers substantial benefits from being a non-invasive and drug-free form of electrotherapy. TENS is also easy to use if the user follows the guidelines. It enables people to increase their quality of life by alleviating pain through endorphin production and the pain gate mechanism. By applying pads to their lower abdomen, women may feel quick relief from cramps.

However, seeking medical advice from a health professional before using TENS is recommended. They may ensure that TENS is safe for the person to use. Furthermore, they may advise on how to use the machine. People may buy TENS machines online or in physical stores. There are many wired and wireless TENS products in the market. Those looking for a wireless TENS device may consider the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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