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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Pain Device: How To Operate

An elderly woman using a TENS on her wrist while sitting and reading

The Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS pain device is an electrical device that delivers electrical current to the body. This electrical stimulation blocks pain signals and triggers the release of endorphins. Accordingly, using a TENS unit involves simple steps for effective relief. Firstly, the user needs to identify the treatment region and place the electrode pads. Then, the individual will adjust the settings or choose a pre-set program. Lastly, the user can activate the stimulation and relax.

Living with acute pain or chronic pain can be debilitating and drastically reduce the quality of life. Fortunately, there are various methods of pain relief available. However, medications and physical therapy may not always provide the desired relief. Hence, many individuals seek a promising pain management solution. One of them is the incorporation of TENS therapy. This article will present how the TENS pain units work, how to use them, and the safety guidelines when using the machine.

How a TENS Pain Device Works

Generally, a TENS pain device works by streaming electric current through electrodes placed on the skin. Specifically, when the TENS unit stimulates the nerves, it can prompt the release of endorphins. These are the natural painkillers of the body. Endorphins act as neurotransmitters and bind to opioid receptors in the brain. Nevertheless, it reduces the perception of discomfort and creates a sense of well-being.

The TENS machine also operates in alignment with the Pain Gate Theory. This suggests that non-painful input can close the gates to painful input. Hence, it prevents the brain from receiving pain signals. By delivering electrical impulses, the TENS unit essentially overwhelms the nerve pathways carrying the pain signals. This effectively closes the pain gate, leading to the reduction of pain.

Furthermore, TENS therapy can impact blood circulation. The electrical stimulation from TENS can cause vasodilation, which is the widening of blood vessels. Improved blood flow can help deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the tissues. Therefore, it promotes faster recovery and reduces inflammation. In essence, the TENS unit operates by utilising different mechanisms to provide a form of pain relief.

The Conditions It Can Treat

  • Chronic pain conditions: persists for an extended period. TENS therapy is a valuable approach for managing conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and backaches.
  • Acute conditions: sudden and short-lived. This may include conditions such as period pain, labour pain, postoperative pain, and sports injuries.
  • Musculoskeletal pain: it involves the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. Conditions such as muscle strains, joint pain, osteoarthritis pain, and tendonitis can benefit from TENS.
  • Neuropathic pain: it stems from damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. TENS therapy offers a promising approach to managing diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia.
  • Muscular pain: this is whether due to overexertion, tension, or other factors.

A woman manually operating a TENS on her back

How to Use a TENS Pain Device

Using a TENS pain device is a straightforward process. Firstly, attach the electrodes to the central unit using lead cables. For wireless TENS, connect it to a smartphone via Bluetooth technology. Secondly, identify the treatment area and prepare it before placing the electrode pads. Adhering to the proper electrode placement is crucial in the step for effective relief.

Thirdly, the individual can power on the TENS unit once the electrodes are in place. Many TENS devices offer adjustable settings for the frequency, intensity, and duration of the electric stimulation. Also, some TENS models allow users to choose a pre-set program for a specific condition. Nevertheless, it is vital to start with the lowest settings and gradually increase it to a comfortable intensity.

During the TENS therapy session, the individual should pay attention to the sensations they experience. Typically, the treatment can last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Once the TENS therapy is complete, the user can power off the unit and carefully remove the electrodes from the skin.

Pad Placement

The individual should first identify the specific area of the body experiencing discomfort. This could be the lower back or any other region. Ensure that the skin in the treatment area is clean and free from oils or lotions. Accordingly, the TENS unit comes with adhesive electrodes, which should be placed directly onto the skin. It is important to follow the exact pad placement for a certain condition.

Typically, the pads are positioned a few inches apart from each other to cover the area effectively. The electrode pads should be firmly pressed onto the skin to ensure good contact and optimal transmission of electrical impulses.

A person using four TENS devices on her legs at once

Safety Guidelines When Using a TENS Pain Device

When using a TENS pain device, it is essential to know the safety guidelines. Before initiating TENS pain relief therapy, individuals should consult with a healthcare professional. This is particularly important for individuals with underlying health conditions. Prior to each TENS therapy session, the user should inspect the skin in the treatment area. It is crucial to ensure that the skin is free from any open wounds.

Accordingly, do not place the electrodes on sensitive areas of the body. This may include the eyes, mouth, head, throat, chest, or bony regions. Furthermore, individuals should adhere to the proper electrode placement to ensure effective treatment and prevent skin irritation. Avoid starting the TENS therapy with high settings. This can cause discomfort and further painful sensations.

Do not use the TENS unit while driving or operating machinery. This can lead to distractions and impair focus. Moreover, avoid using the TENS device while in water or bathing. The exposure to moisture can lead to unit malfunction and produce electrical hazards. After each use, individuals should store the machine properly. This may include storing it in a secure and dry location to prevent damage.

When to Seek Medical Attention?

If an individual using a TENS unit experiences adverse or unusual reactions, such as excessive redness or swelling, seeking medical attention is important. These reactions may indicate an underlying issue that requires assessment by a healthcare professional. In the event of unexplained changes in pain levels during or after TENS therapy, it is advisable to see a doctor. Such changes may signify the need for further evaluation.

Additionally, persistent numbness or tingling sensations should prompt the individual to seek a health professional. These sensations may indicate underlying nerve-related issues that require evaluation by a healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and management.


TENS pain devices are a valuable tool for managing discomfort. It is a medical device that delivers electrical pulses to the body. Accordingly, it works by prompting the release of endorphins, blocking pain signals, and promoting blood flow. With such mechanisms, TENS can treat conditions like backaches, postoperative pain, osteoarthritis, post-herpetic neuralgia, and muscle discomfort. Also, TENS units are straightforward to use. One needs to identify the treatment area, place the pads, and adjust the settings.

Furthermore, proper pad placement is crucial in the therapy. Hence, it is essential to adhere to the user manual or the recommendations of medical professionals. Nevertheless, it is important to know the safety guidelines for optimal treatment. Before undergoing TENS therapy, it is essential to consult a health practitioner. Also, it is vital to recognise when to seek medical attention. The TENS units are available in the marketplace, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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