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TENS Pain Therapy: The Need to Know

A small and large wing iTENS and a pack of refill gel pads


Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS pain therapy, utilises an electronic device to deliver electrical currents to the body. This electrical stimulation works in different mechanisms to provide a method of pain relief. Accordingly, it blocks the transmission of pain signals, triggers the release of endorphins, and improves blood circulation. Furthermore, conducting TENS treatment is easy. One must position the electrode pads, turn on the device, adjust the settings, and activate stimulation.

Acute pain or chronic pain is a universal human experience affecting the quality of life. Throughout history, people have sought out various forms of pain relief. This may include pain control medicines and physical therapy. However, they may not always provide adequate relief. Hence, many individuals seek other effective interventions and pain management methods like TENS therapy. This article will present TENS treatment, including how it works and how to conduct it.

What is a TENS Pain Therapy?

TENS pain therapy is a type of treatment that uses an electrical device to send electrical impulses to help relieve conditions. Accordingly, TENS is often used by individuals who experience various types of pain. They may undergo TENS treatment at home or on the go. Also, physical therapists, pain clinics, and healthcare providers utilise TENS as part of treatment plans for their patients.

There are two main types of TENS devices: wired and wireless. Wired TENS units typically have electrode patches connected to the central device with wires. On the other hand, wireless TENS devices eliminate the need for lead cables. Hence, it provides more freedom of movement during use. Users can control the level of pain relief manually or via smartphone through Bluetooth technology.

Both wired and wireless units have different features to enhance the user experience. These features may include adjustable settings to customise the pulse intensitypulse frequency, and pulse duration. Also, some TENS models may extend pre-set programs to target specific types of pain. Additionally, TENS offers reusable or disposable electrode patches for convenience.

Treatable Conditions

  • Acute pain conditions: sudden and last for a short period. This may include primary dysmenorrhea, tension headaches, and sports injuries.
  • Chronic pain conditions: ongoing and often persist for months. Conditions such as arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, and backaches fall into this category.
  • Neuropathic pain: arises from damage to the nervous system. It is often described as shooting or tingling sensations. This may involve ailments like sciatica and diabetic neuropathy.
  • Musculoskeletal pain: affects the muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. This may involve joint painknee joint discomfort, and osteoarthritis pain.
  • Muscular pain: refers to the discomfort in the muscles due to tension, overexertion, or repetitive strain.

A woman placing TENS on the back of another person

How TENS Pain Therapy Works

TENS pain therapy works by utilising electrical pulses to stimulate the physiological responses of the body. One way is prompting the production and release of endorphins. These are natural chemicals in the body that act as natural painkillers. Accordingly, these endorphins bind to opioid receptors in the body. Hence, it results in the reduction of pain and promotes a sense of well-being.

The pain gate mechanism is another aspect of how TENS operates. According to this, the electrical pulses from TENS can effectively “close the gate” in the spinal cord. This interrupts the pain messages travelling to the brain. The electric currents can reach the nerve fibres faster than the pain signals. Therefore, it essentially blocks the transmission of pain messages, providing management of pain.

Moreover, TENS treatment can impact blood flow in the body. The electrical stimulation can cause blood vessels to dilate. This improves circulation and increases the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to body tissues. Nevertheless, enhanced blood flow can help promote tissue healing and repair. This contributes to the overall acute or chronic pain relief.

Advantages Over the Other Treatment Methods

One significant advantage of TENS is its non-invasive nature. It eliminates the need for surgical procedures or invasive interventions. Accordingly, TENS provides a non-pharmacological intervention. It does not involve the use of medications, which have potential side effects and risks of dependency. Also, it can provide localised pain relief.

Additionally, TENS extends a flexible and customisable approach to managing conditions. This enables people to modify the treatment session. Moreover, TENS can be an adjunct intervention to other treatment modalities. This may include physical therapy, exercise, and complementary modalities. Therefore, TENS can enhance the overall effectiveness of the treatment plan.

A guide on how to conduct TENS therapy using the iTENS app

How to Conduct a TENS Pain Therapy

To conduct TENS pain therapy, individuals should follow several steps to ensure safe and effective application. Begin by attaching the electrodes to the central unit using lead cables. For a wireless TENS unit, connect it to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth technology. Then, identify the treatment location, prepare the skin, and position the pads. Proper electrode placement is crucial in this step.

Once the electrodes are in place, turn on the TENS device. Most units allow users to adjust the settings. Hence, modify the frequency, intensity, and pulse rate. Also, some TENS may extend pre-set programs. Therefore, choose a program that directly targets a specific condition. Nevertheless, professionals recommend starting with the lowest settings and gradually increasing it to a comfortable intensity.

During the TENS therapy session, monitoring sensations and comfort levels is essential. The duration of the treatment varies depending on individual needs. Typically, the session lasts between 15 to 30 minutes. Upon completing the TENS therapy session, turn off the device and carefully remove the electrode patches from the skin.

Safety Considerations

Before undergoing TENS therapy, individuals must seek guidance from a healthcare professional. This is particularly vital for people with underlying medical conditions. Accordingly, proper pad placement is essential to avoid discomfort, skin irritation, and ineffective stimulation. In addition, do not place the electrode pads on the eyes, head, mouth, throat, chest, and broken skin.

Furthermore, avoid starting TENS therapy with high settings. This can cause electrical shocks and further discomfort. Prompt recognition and management of adverse reactions are critical. If the individual experiences adverse effects, it is vital to discontinue the treatment and seek professional help.


In conclusion, TENS pain therapy is a highly effective method of pain management. It utilises an electronic device that is available in wired and wireless functionalities. Both devices offer various features to enhance user experience. Accordingly, TENS works by streaming electrical pulses. This can block pain signals, trigger the release of endorphins, and promote blood flow. With such mechanisms, TENS can treat different conditions. This may include tension headaches, sciaticaarthritis pain, and osteoarthritis.

TENS units offer numerous benefits. It is non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, provides localised relief, and can complement other treatment programs. Furthermore, to conduct TENS therapy, one needs to prepare the device, identify the treatment area, place the pads, and adjust the settings. However, knowing the safety considerations is crucial when using TENS units. This is for an effective therapy and optimal experience. TENS devices are available in stores, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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