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TENS Stim: Benefits, How It Works, and the Safety Guidelines

A small and large wing TENS and refill gel pads from iTENS Australia

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS stim, is a therapy that uses an electronic device to deliver electrical currents to the body. Consequently, TENS therapy has several benefits. It is versatile, non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, and cost-effective. Furthermore, this electrical stimulation works based on the Theory of Pain Gate and the release of endorphins. Nevertheless, knowing the safety guidelines is crucial. This may include consulting a health professional and adhering to proper electrode placement.

Living with different types of pain can be debilitating and significantly impact the quality of life. Traditional pain management methods, such as medication or surgery, often come with their own set of limitations and risks. As a result, many individuals are turning toward alternative methods of pain relief, like TENS. It is commonly used by pain clinics, physical therapists, professionals, and individuals. The following sections will present the benefits of TENS electrical stimulation, how it works, and the safety guidelines.

Benefits of TENS Stim

TENS stim offers a multitude of benefits. Foremost, TENS therapy is versatile. It can be used to address various types of pain or conditions. Secondly, TENS can provide targeted relief. This delivers localised relief without affecting the entire body. Thirdly, TENS treatment is non-invasive and drug-free. It does not require injections, incisions, surgical procedures, or the use of medications.

Fourthly, TENS devices offer customisable settings to suit individual needs. The pulse rate, pulse intensity, and pulse duration can be adjusted to achieve the most effective pain relief. Furthermore, TENS therapy is a cost-effective form of pain relief. By reducing the need for medications and invasive procedures, individuals can potentially lower healthcare costs while still obtaining relief from discomfort.

The portability of TENS units is another notable benefit. TENS devices are usually compact and lightweight. Hence, it allows individuals to use them at home, work, or on the go. Additionally, TENS treatment can be a complementary therapy. This works alongside other ailment management strategies to provide comprehensive relief.

What Conditions Can It Treat?

  • Acute pain: TENS is suitable for managing short-term discomfort. This usually results from postoperative painlabour pain, period pain, and injuries.
  • Chronic pain: TENS provides relief for long-standing, persistent ailments. This may include conditions, such as arthritis pain, backaches, and fibromyalgia.
  • Neuropathic pain: it arises from the damage to the nerves. This type of discomfort is often described as shooting or burning. It includes conditions like sciatica, diabetic neuropathy, and nerve-entrapment syndromes.
  • Musculoskeletal pain: this affects the bones, tendons, and ligaments and can result in knee osteoarthritis pain and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Muscular discomfort: TENS is beneficial for individuals experiencing muscle tension or spasms.

A woman using TENS on her lower back

How TENS Stim Works

When TENS stim is applied, it works by triggering the natural pain-relieving mechanisms of the body. Foremost, the electrical pulses from TENS can stimulate the production and release of endorphins. Endorphins act as natural painkillers by binding to opioid receptors. Nevertheless, this activity can reduce the perception of discomfort and promote an overall sense of well-being.

Another way TENS operates is through the pain gate mechanism. According to this, the transmission of pain signals to the brain can be “gated” by the activation of non-painful nerve fibres. The electric currents from TENS can stimulate these non-painful nerve fibres. As a result, it can effectively close the “gate”, leading to a decreased transmission of pain messages to the brain.

Furthermore, TENS therapy can have a positive impact on blood circulation. The electrical pulses can cause vasodilation, leading to improved blood flow. Enhanced blood circulation can aid in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues. Additionally, this can assist in the removal of metabolic waste products. This can result in reduced inflammation and faster healing.

Understanding Frequencies

In TENS therapy, the frequency of the electrical currents plays a crucial role in determining the physiological effects of the treatment. Nevertheless, TENS units are capable of delivering electrical stimulation at different frequencies. This is typically categorised as low and high frequency.

Low-frequency TENS generally operates at frequencies below 10 Hz. It is believed to primarily target the release of endorphins and enkephalins. Hence, it is vital for managing chronic conditions. Meanwhile, high-frequency TENS operates at frequencies above 50 Hz. The rapid electrical pulses from TENS are believed to work based on the pain gate mechanism. Thus, it is beneficial for acute conditions.

A person placing TENS on the wrist of an elderly woman

Safety Guidelines When Applying TENS Stim

When using TENS stim, it is essential to follow safety guidelines. Before initiating TENS therapy, it is vital for individuals to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on the appropriate use of TENS based on the specific condition. Consequently, the proper electrode placement is critical in the treatment. Thus, it is vital to follow instructions from the manufacturer or medical professionals.

Prior to applying the electrode pads, it is important to clean and dry the skin. Also, do not place the electrodes in the head, eyes, mouth, chest, throat, bony prominences, and broken skin. Furthermore, start the therapy with the lowest setting and gradually increase it to a comfortable level. Beginning with a high setting may cause electrical shocks, leading to further discomfort.

Individuals undergoing TENS therapy should be attentive to their sensations. Regularly inspect the skin and comfort level and make readjustments. Moreover, the duration of the session usually lasts 15 to 30 minutes. For longer sessions, take breaks before continuing the therapy. Additionally, do not use TENS while driving, operating machinery, sleeping, or in contact with water.

When to Seek Professional Help?

If an individual experiences increased discomfort during or after TENS therapy, it is essential to seek professional help. This could be a sign of an underlying issue that requires medical attention. Accordingly, allergic reactions at the electrode placement site are signs to see a doctor.

TENS should not cause sharp or burning sensations. If an individual experiences changes in sensations, it is vital to seek medical help to determine the cause and adjust the treatment. Furthermore, individuals who experience dizziness during or after TENS therapy should seek professional guidance. These symptoms may indicate the need for further evaluation.


Overall, TENS stim is a highly effective technique for relieving pain and promoting healing. It is a therapy that uses an electrical device to send electrical pulses. Consequently, this treatment provides a multitude of benefits to users. It is versatile, non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, cost-effective, portable, provides targeted relief, and can complement other treatment modalities. Moreover, TENS therapy can treat various conditions. This may include menstrual cramps, backaches, sciatica, osteoarthritis, and muscle discomfort.

Furthermore, TENS works in different mechanisms. It blocks the transmission of pain messages, triggers the release of endorphins, and improves blood flow. Also, the electrical currents can stream in low and high frequencies. Nevertheless, recognising the safety guidelines when undergoing TENS treatment is crucial. This may include consulting a health professional, adhering to the proper pad placement, and starting with low settings. Additionally, it is vital to know when to seek professional help.

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