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TENS for Physiotherapy: The Benefits of Electrotherapy as a Relief Solution

Man holding his nape and lower back

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS for physiotherapy involves the use of a battery-operated device that delivers electrical currents to the body through electrodes. It offers various benefits as a relief solution for pain. Firstly, it is drug-free and non-invasive. Secondly, it provides targeted pain relief. Thirdly, TENS is highly customisable. It is important to note that TENS therapy is not a cure for pain, but rather an effective method of providing relief.

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in treating various musculoskeletal conditions and injuries. TENS, in particular, has been recognised for its effectiveness in pain management and rehabilitation. It is a valuable tool for physical therapists to personalise treatment plans for patients in physical therapy. Moreover, people can use it at home or on the go. This article will provide information on TENS for physical therapy, including its benefits, functioning, and appropriate usage.

The Benefits of TENS for Physiotherapy

TENS for physiotherapy is a popular treatment due to its numerous benefits. Firstly, it is drug-free and non-invasive. Hence, patients can experience pain relief without needing medication or surgical procedures. This approach helps reduce the risk of side effects and complications, making it a safe and effective solution.

Secondly, TENS can provide targeted pain relief. It delivers low-voltage electrical impulses through adhesive electrode pads strategically placed on or near the source of pain. The placement of these electrodes allows the electrical stimulation to target the nerves and sensory pathways specifically. This approach enables users to focus the therapeutic effects precisely on the affected regions. Hence, it offers localised relief.

Thirdly, TENS is customisable. It allows healthcare professionals to tailor treatment plans to meet the unique needs of individual patients. This personalisation is crucial in addressing diverse acute or chronic pain conditions and varying sensitivity levels among patients. Physiotherapists can adjust the intensity, frequency, and duration of TENS based on specific pain management goals. Overall, these benefits provide users with the ideal combination of safety and efficacy.

Common Conditions a TENS Can Treat

  • Muscle and joint pain: this type of pain affects the muscles and joints, leading to discomfort and limited range of motion.
  • Postoperative pain: a discomfort experienced after a surgical procedure due to tissue damage, inflammation, and nerve sensitivity.
  • Neuropathic pain: resulting from damage of the nerves, this type of pain presents as a sharp, shooting, or burning sensation.
  • Abdominal pain: a broad term for pain in the area between the chest and pelvis. Digestive issues, infections, or underlying conditions like appendicitis or gallstones can cause this.
  • Osteoarthritis pain: this type of pain is characterised by stiffness, swelling, and aching in the affected joints.

iTENS large wing kit

How Does a TENS for Physiotherapy Work?

TENS for physiotherapy uses a portable device consisting of adhesive electrode pads. When placed in the pain area, it delivers mild electrical signals that stimulate the sensory nerves. TENS works by overriding the nerves in the spinal cord that act as pain gate controllers. The electrical stimulation from TENS closes the “neural gates”, blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

Another mechanism of TENS is to stimulate the production of endorphins. These are natural painkillers that the body releases when it perceives pain and stress. They bind to opioid receptors and inhibit the pain messages from reaching the brain. In addition, utilising low-frequency levels is the best approach to trigger the release of endorphins.

Moreover, the TENS device can help boost circulation. The constant stream of electrical pulses stimulates the motor nerves and muscles. This increases blood flow and oxygen in the area, which can help reduce inflammation and cramping sensations. Overall, experimenting with different settings can help find the most effective pain relief.

Understanding Low and High Frequencies

Low-frequency TENS delivers electrical pulses at a rate of 10 Hz or lower. People use this type of TENS for a longer duration. Additionally, it can trigger the release of endorphins. Doctors often recommend low-frequency TENS for chronic pain conditions like arthritis or lower back pain.

On the other hand, high-frequency TENS sends electrical pulses rapidly, usually between 50 and 120 Hz. Health professionals commonly apply this frequency to address acute pain conditions, like postoperative discomfort or recent sports injuries. Medical experts believe that this method operates by obstructing the pain signals from reaching the brain.

Workflow on how to operate the iTENS app

How to Apply TENS for Physiotherapy

Applying TENS for physiotherapy is relatively simple and can be done by following a few basic steps. Firstly, read the user manual, as each device has unique features and settings. Secondly, before beginning, make sure that the machine is off to avoid sudden electric shocks.

Then, check if the device has fresh batteries or is fully charged. Connect the electrodes through wires or a cellphone via Bluetooth for wireless. Once done, it is time to position electrodes on the skin. Before the electrode placement, ensure the skin in the target area is clean, dry, and free from lotions or oil. Next, turn on the device by pressing the power button.

Adjust the settings on how the electrical signals will flow. This includes frequency, intensity, and duration of time. Other models offer pre-set programs and modes. Select the appropriate one. Furthermore, it is advisable to start with low settings and gradually increase it to comfort level and sufficient relief. After the session, carefully remove the sets of electrodes and store them properly.

Electrode Placement

Proper electrode placement is vital when using TENS therapy. Begin by identifying and cleaning the treatment area. To address localised pain, it is advisable to place the electrode on either side of the aching area. For larger areas, place the pads around the pain area to cover as much surface as possible. Pay attention to the spacing between the electrode pads.

Avoid placing the electrodes on sensitive areas, broken skin, or bony regions. This can cause discomfort and can lead to further experience pain. Accordingly, ensure the attachment of the pad to the skin for more effective transmission of electrical current.


TENS for physiotherapy stands out as a drug-free and targeted pain relief solution. Its customisable nature allows healthcare professionals to tailor treatment plans for individual needs, ensuring effective pain management. By stimulating sensory nerves and promoting endorphin release, TENS works to block pain signals and enhance the natural painkillers of the body. Additionally, it can boost blood circulation, contributing to reduced inflammation. In essence, TENS offers a safe and adaptable approach to physiotherapy.

Applying TENS for physical therapy involves careful electrode placement and device settings. Users should start by reading the manual, checking battery status, and ensuring a clean skin surface. Proper electrode placement, considering pain location and pad spacing, is crucial for effective therapy. Moreover, users should avoid sensitive or broken skin areas and ensure firm pad attachment for optimal electrical current transmission. After the session, removing electrodes and proper storage concludes the TENS application process.

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