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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Pulse Massager: How It Works and How To Use

A long wing iTENS electrode and refill gel pads

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a form of non-invasive electrotherapy. A TENS pulse massager uses electrode pads to deliver electrical stimulation. Using high frequencies triggers spinal nerve fibres to block pain sensations from reaching the brain. Meanwhile, low frequencies induce endorphin production. To use a TENS unit, place the pads near or on the pain area, adjust the settings, and use it for the prescribed period. However, people should first consult their healthcare provider before using TENS.

TENS units are effective for chronic and acute pain conditions. This includes fibromyalgia, sciatica, and lower back pain. They are battery-operated devices that are convenient to use in various settings. These machines are great alternatives for pain medicines. Additionally, they help many people during their rehabilitation periods. This article will present how a TENS device works, how to use one, and its safety guidelines.

How a TENS Pulse Massager Works

A TENS pulse massager is a device that many use for effective pain relief. Individuals place electrodes on the skin to deliver electrical pulses to the body. Typically, a TENS machine has a frequency range of 1-150 Hz and an intensity range of 0-80 mAmp. Users may adjust these settings to address chronic or acute conditions.

Using high-frequency stimulation (50-120 Hz) triggers spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This is the pain gate mechanism described in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It relieves aches immediately or within 30 minutes for some. This makes it apt for acute pain.

Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) triggers the production of endogenous opioids. These are painkilling hormones that build up to relieve pain. However, it may take about 40 minutes before it takes effect. This type of stimulation suits chronic pain because the effects last hours after the session. Furthermore, people may use it up to four times daily to alleviate their aches.

Benefits of Using the Device

There are many benefits to using TENS machines. Here are some of them:

  • TENS is a pain management method that reduces or replaces the intake of pain medications. This helps people avoid allergic reactions and adverse effects like nausea and heartburn.
  • High-frequency stimulation has a massage-like effect that relaxes muscle tension and improves blood circulation.
  • TENS therapy is drug-free and does not cause addiction.
  • Regular use of TENS may reduce the intensity of pain over time.
  • Endorphins reduce inflammation and improve moods. This can help improve body mobility.
  • TENS is complementary to many treatment plans due to its non-invasive nature.

A guide for how to use the iTENS smartphone app

How To Use a TENS Pulse Massager

Using a TENS pulse massager is a straightforward process. Many people use them at home without medical supervision for convenient pain relief. Ensure the unit is in good condition and the batteries have enough power for the session before starting the machine. Individuals should also clean their skin with soap and water to remove excess oils.

Then, they may place the electrode pads near or on the pain area. People may use up to eight electrodes with some TENS units. However, they should ensure the pads are at least one inch apart to prevent interference. Once the adhesive electrodes are placed, the user may switch the machine on. Starting on the lowest setting is best to avoid shock or discomfort. After that, they may gradually increase the settings to their preferred level.

Generally, TENS sessions last between 20 to 60 minutes. This may depend on the condition and the settings used. When the time elapses, the user can turn off the machine. Then, they should carefully remove the electrode patches. Ideally, they should clean the adhesives before placing them in storage.

Applications of the Device

TENS therapy helps relieve pain caused by acute and chronic conditions. It helps those with fibromyalgia, an ailment that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. Additionally, it helps with arthritis or joint pain from the inflammation of one or more joints. It also helps with migraines and diabetes-related neuropathy.

Furthermore, it helps athletes recover from sports injuries faster. It is also effective for period pain from menstrual cramps that many women feel at the start of their cycle. Additionally, it alleviates sudden and sharp aches from body parts. This includes neck, knee, lower back, and foot pain.

An elderly woman using an iTENS electrode on her arm while reading

Safety Guidelines for a TENS Pulse Massager

Consulting a medical practitioner is ideal before using a TENS pulse massager. They can assess if TENS therapy suits the health condition of the individual. This is because some conditions negatively react to electrical stimulation. Additionally, they may advise people on duration, regularity, and settings to use.

Furthermore, people should read the instructions provided by the device manufacturer. This will help them understand how to use their device and avoid malfunctioning or adverse effects. In addition, it may guide them about proper electrode placement. This is crucial for the effective delivery of electrical currents. Moreover, they should avoid sensitive areas such as the eyes, throat, chest, spinal cord, and top of the head.

In addition, individuals should not place electrode patches on irritated, infected, or broken skin. This is because electric currents may cause the condition to worsen. Moreover, people should not use TENS units while sleeping, driving, or operating heavy machinery. Nor should they use them while submerged in water.

When to Avoid

As previously mentioned, certain health conditions are not compatible with electrotherapy. Thus, those with a history of cancer, epilepsy, seizures, and heart disease should avoid using TENS. Moreover, people with electrical and metal implants, like pacemakers and defibrillators, should not use TENS. This is because it may cause the implants to malfunction.

Additionally, pregnant women should abstain from using TENS. However, they may ask their doctors about using it for labour pain. People should also avoid TENS if they are allergic to the materials used in the electrode patches. Lastly, they must seek medical attention if their pain worsens during or after the session.


TENS pulse massagers use electric currents delivered by adhesive pads to alleviate pain. This electrical device is easy to use without medical supervision. It allows many people to reduce their intake of pain medication. Additionally, it helps speed up the recovery of many individuals. Although TENS does not directly treat conditions, it helps people as part of their treatment plans. People may consult their doctors or physical therapists regarding using TENS.

Furthermore, reading the guidelines for proper pad placement is crucial for effective pain relief. People must avoid sensitive areas like the throat and the spine. Additionally, they must check if their unit is in good condition to prevent mishaps during the session. Buying FDA-cleared devices ensures the device has undergone rigorous testing and meets standards. There are many options for wired and wireless units in the market. One option is the wireless iTENS from iTENS Austalia.

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