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TENS Physical Therapy – How It Works, Conditions It Can Treat, and Safety Guidelines

A newscaster reporting about TENS as a new pain relief

Physical therapy is a widely used approach to help manage pain and treat injuries. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS physical therapy, uses low-voltage electric currents to relieve pain in adults. It has been utilised for decades and has shown promising results. TENS targets specific areas of pain in the body. It can help with chronic musculoskeletal pain or postoperative pain. To ensure safety, it is important to correctly position electrodes on the skin and seek professional guidance before use.

TENS is a non-invasive and drug-free treatment. It can help alleviate muscle spasms, reduce inflammation, and improve overall mobility. Whether individuals who are considering a therapy session for themselves or those who are simply curious about this innovative treatment, the article will provide all the information they need to know. The following sections will present the details of how physical therapy using TENS works, the conditions it can effectively treat, and the safety guidelines to keep in mind.

How TENS in Physical Therapy Works

The technique of TENS in physical therapy involves the placement of electrode pads on the skin in specific body areas according to the needs of patients. TENS generates electrical current to stimulate the sensory nerves. Consequently, it alleviates pain. This method of pain relief has shown positive effects on many people. Thus, it is a popular choice among physical therapists and individuals alike.

Generally, there are two methods of how TENS works. One of which is the use of low frequencies, which ranges from 2 Hz to 10 Hz. This can generate a more substantial and long-lasting response from the body. Low-frequency TENS is typically used for chronic pain and spasms. Additionally, it increases the range of motion in joints, improves circulation, and releases endorphins.

The other method of TENS uses high frequencies, which range from 50 Hz to 100 Hz. It works by stimulating motor neurons in the spinal cord. This is more suitable for acute pain conditions. Overall, it is preferable for individuals who might have analgesic tolerance or prefer alternative methods. TENS is helpful because it provides short-term relief and long-term benefits.

Benefits of Using the Device

The following are the benefits of using TENS:

  • Non-invasive: It does not require the use of intrusive medical procedures. Hence, it is a safe and natural alternative for pain management.
  • Drug-free option: This reduces the risks of adverse side effects associated with pharmaceutical medications.
  • Customisable treatment: With TENS, people can adjust the intensity of the electrical stimulation according to their pain threshold and preference, allowing for personalized and tailored pain relief.
  • Versatile application: Individuals can place TENS devices in various parts of the body. This includes the neck, back, joints, and extremities, making it suitable for a wide range of pain conditions.

A man touching the back of his neck and his lower back

Pain Conditions that Can Be Treated Using TENS in Physical Therapy

TENS in physical therapy utilises mild electrical pulses to provide relief for individuals suffering from one or more pain conditions. By targeting and stimulating sensory nerves, TENS therapy helps to modulate pain signals and reduce discomfort.

Moreover, it can manage various chronic pains. Arthritis is a common one that can cause extreme pain and inflammation. It makes it difficult for people to perform everyday activities. Meanwhile, there is neuropathic pain. Injuries, disease, or other traumas to the nerves cause it. This can also be debilitating. Additionally, fibromyalgia is a long-term condition characterised by widespread pain and sensitivity to pressure.

On the other hand, TENS can also help with many acute conditions. Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendons, which are thick bands of tissue that connect muscle to bone. Repetitive motions or a sudden traumatic event can cause this type of injury. Furthermore, sprains and strains are injuries to ligaments and muscles, respectively. Overstretching or tearing can cause this. Meanwhile, postoperative pain is pain that occurs after an operation or procedure like abdominal surgery.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

TENS, while generally safe and well-tolerated, may have potential risks and side effects that people should consider. One potential risk is skin irritation or redness at the site of electrode placements. This can occur due to prolonged use, improper application of electrodes, or sensitivity to the adhesive pads. It is important to regularly check the skin and adjust or remove the electrodes if necessary.

Also, the body can feel twitching during a treatment session. The electrical current being too strong or too low typically causes this. Individuals can resolve it by adjusting the settings on the TENS machine.

A standing woman using TENS on her lower back

Safety Precautions When Using TENS in Physical Therapy

When operating TENS in physical therapy, it is crucial to take certain precautions to ensure its effective and safe use. One important consideration is to follow electrode placements and recommended protocols carefully to avoid discomfort. Proper placement of the sets of electrodes can help deliver electrical impulses accurately to target the nerves and alleviate pain while minimising any potential adverse effects.

Moreover, people should avoid using TENS on broken skin because it may cause further harm to the area and increase the risk of infection. The electrical current can be too strong for the delicate skin tissue, causing burns or irritation. Furthermore, bacteria from a contaminated device can easily get into open wounds and cause an infection.

Another important safety measure is to consult with a healthcare professional before starting TENS therapy. This is especially necessary for people who have underlying medical conditions or for pregnant women. Certain medical conditions, such as spinal cord injuries or recent medical procedures, may require specific adjustments in the TENS approach. An individualised evaluation by a doctor can help determine if TENS is suitable for them.

When to See a Doctor

If there are experiences of any unusual symptoms while using TENS or a decrease in the effectiveness of the treatment, it is important to seek medical help. A doctor should be seen if the benefits of TENS therapy diminish or if people have any concerns or questions about it. They can guide and provide advice to ensure optimal relief of pain.

Remember, it is always better to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure safety and effectiveness during TENS therapy sessions. They can provide expert advice and monitor the progress of patients to make sure the desired pain relief outcomes are achieved.


TENS in physical therapy is a non-invasive form of electrotherapy. It reduces pain intensity and aid in recovery. TENS works by sending low-level pulses of electricity through electrodes on the skin near the area of pain. These pulses stimulate nerve pathways and create a natural release of endorphins and the modulation of pain signals. TENS is a well-rounded option for individuals seeking relief from various types of pain ranging from neck pain to cancer pain.

While TENS therapy can be a valuable tool in managing pain, there are factors to keep in mind. By closely monitoring the reaction of the skin, managing pad placement, and seeking professional guidance, people can maximise the benefits of TENS while minimising any potential drawbacks. This kind of pain management treatment has become in demand. Hence, they can easily buy online or in-store. For more options, check iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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