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TENS Machine TENS: How Does It Work for Treating Conditions?

A small wing iTENS with two packs of refill gel pads

One method of pain relief is the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS machine TENS. It is a battery-powered device that delivers electrical currents to the body. Accordingly, this electrical stimulation works in various mechanisms to treat conditions. Firstly, TENS can block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Secondly, the electrical pulses can stimulate the release of endorphins, the natural painkillers of the body. Additionally, TENS can help improve blood flow in the treatment region.

Living with different types of pain is never easy, and finding an effective pain relief solution can be a challenge. Traditional pain management options, such as painkilling medication, may not always provide relief and may come with unwanted effects. Hence, people seek alternative forms of pain relief. This led to the emergence of TENS therapy as a promising option. The following sections will present the TENS electrical device, including how it works and how to operate it.

What is a TENS Machine TENS?

The TENS machine TENS is a battery-powered machine that sends low-voltage electric currents to the body. Accordingly, the delivery of stimulation is possible due to the electrode pads placed on the skin. Medical professionals and pain clinics utilise TENS as part of their treatment plans to manage pain in their patients. Also, individuals can use TENS at home or on the go for faster pain relief.

TENS devices are available in wired and wireless options. Wired TENS require connecting the electrodes to the unit via wires. Hence, it provides a direct electrical connection. On the other hand, wireless TENS eliminates the need for lead cables. This offers a more convenient and discreet option for people. Users can manually adjust the stimulation program or to a smartphone through Bluetooth.

Several features are commonly found in TENS devices. This offers users flexibility and control over pain management. Many units extend adjustable settings to modify the frequency, intensity, and pulse rate. Some TENS units also provide pre-set programs to address various types of pain. Additionally, TENS machines may include timers and rechargeable batteries.

Types of Pain Suitable for TENS Therapy

  • Chronic pain: it is a persistent discomfort that lasts for an extended period. This may include neck pain, backaches, and arthritis.
  • Acute pain: it is a sudden and intense pain. This may arise from labour painperiod painsports injuries, and tension headaches.
  • Neuropathic pain: it stems from damage or malfunction of the nerves. This may involve sciatica and diabetic neuropathies.
  • Musculoskeletal pain: it relates to issues with the muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. Conditions like joint pain, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are suitable for TENS therapy.
  • Muscular pain: this involves muscle discomfort or soreness, which can result from physical strain or tension.

An elderly woman pointing the TENS device on her wrist

How a TENS Machine TENS Works

The TENS machine TENS works by activating several physiological responses. One key mechanism by which TENS therapy operates is through the stimulation of endorphin production. Endorphins are the natural pain-relieving chemicals of the body. Accordingly, the release of endorphins can help alleviate discomfort and promote a sense of well-being.

Another important aspect of TENS is its interaction with the Pain Gate Theory. According to this, the electronic pulses from TENS can interfere with the transmission of pain messages to the brain. Specifically, the stimulation from TENS can block the nerve pathways that carry pain signals. As a result, the brain receives fewer pain messages, leading to a reduction in pain perception.

Furthermore, TENS therapy can impact blood flow in the area where the electrodes are placed. Electrical stimulation has been shown to promote vasodilation, which is the widening of blood vessels. This can enhance circulation and oxygen delivery to the tissues. Nevertheless, it potentially aids in the reduction of discomfort and supports the natural healing process of the body.


One of the key benefits of TENS therapy is its ability to provide localised relief. This approach allows for targeted pain management. Additionally, TENS treatment is non-invasive. It does not involve oral medications, surgery, or skin penetration. Also, TENS is customisable. This ensures that individuals can find effective settings to suit specific needs.

Another advantage of the TENS device is its portability. Many TENS are compact and lightweight, making them easy to use on the go. Moreover, TENS therapy is cost-effective. It eliminates the ongoing cost of medications or frequent visits to health professionals. Also, TENS therapy can serve as an adjunct treatment.

An instruction on how to operate the iTENS app

How to Operate a TENS Machine TENS

Before use, ensure that the TENS machine TENS is in good working condition. This includes checking if it is adequately charged or has fresh batteries. Next, connect the electrodes to the central unit using wires or on a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless. Then, identify the treatment region and prepare the skin by removing oils, lotions, or dirt.

After that, position the electrode pads. Following the proper pad placement is crucial in this step. Also, it is essential to avoid placing the pads on the head, eyes, mouth, chest, throat, bony regions, and broken skin. Once the electrodes are in place, turn on the TENS machine. The device may allow the user to adjust the settings or choose a pre-set program.

Start with the lowest setting and gradually increase it to a comfortable level. Throughout the therapy session, it is essential to monitor the comfort level and the response of the body to the TENS treatment. The recommended duration for TENS therapy is 15 to 30 minutes. After completing the session, turn off the TENS unit and carefully remove the electrode pads from the skin.

Potential Side Effects

Some individuals may experience skin irritation at the electrode placement site. This can be due to an allergic reaction to the electrode adhesives. During the therapy, some people may experience mild muscle twitching or discomfort. This sensation is generally transient, but individuals should adjust the settings or pad placement if the discomfort becomes excessive.

While TENS is safe, excessive use may lead to overuse and desensitisation of the effects of the therapy. In rare cases, TENS therapy may interfere with certain implantable devices, such as pacemakers. Hence, it is crucial for individuals with such devices to consult a healthcare professional before using TENS.


A TENS machine TENS can provide effective pain relief for various conditions. It is a wired or wireless electrical device with several features. Accordingly, it works by streaming electrical pulses to the body through electrodes placed on the skin. This electrical stimulation can block the transmission of pain messages, prompt the release of endorphins, and improve blood flow. As a result, TENS therapy is suitable for treating conditions like backaches, sports injuries, sciatica, joint pain, and muscle soreness.

Furthermore, TENS offers benefits. It provides localised relief, and it is non-invasive, customisable, portable, cost-effective, and can be an adjunct treatment. To operate the device, the user needs to prepare the unit. Then, locate the treatment region, place the pads, and adjust the settings. While TENS is safe, it is crucial to know the potential side effects of the therapy. This is to ensure optimal TENS therapy experience. TENS units are available in stores, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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