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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS System: Purpose, How It Works, & Benefits

A newscaster reporting about TENS as a new pain relief

Managing pain in adults can be difficult. The reason is that pain is a complex and subjective experience. It can vary from person to person. Fortunately, they can rely on Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). Its purpose is to provide a natural method of pain relief that can help with various medical conditions. The TENS system works by sending mild electrical currents to the affected area. This technique is beneficial because it does not involve medicines or intrusive procedures.

Health professionals usually recommend painkillers to alleviate acute and chronic pain conditions. However, these come with potential side effects. Also, they can be addictive if used for extended periods. Thus, using TENS as an alternative pain reliever is valuable. Nevertheless, individuals must understand the elements surrounding its system. Hence, the following sections will present the purpose of an electrical nerve stimulation system, how it works, and its benefits.

Purpose of TENS System

The purpose of a TENS system is to provide pain relief naturally. It utilises an electronic device, emitting low-voltage electrical pulses. Then, they stimulate the sensory nerves to reduce aches or discomfort. This technology can help manage various conditions. People interested in undergoing TENS therapy can visit a pain clinic or hospital. Moreover, they can rent or buy one.

Electrical nerve stimulation machines come with adhesive electrode pads. They can be wired or wireless. The former requires the user to connect the electrodes to the machine through lead cables. On the other hand, the latter allows for more freedom of movement. They can control the unit by accessing a mobile app, as non-wired devices usually have Bluetooth connectivity.

Individuals can operate the TENS unit in their homes. Additionally, they can bring it with them wherever they go. Its lightweight and portable design makes it convenient for on-the-go pain relief. They can adjust the settings to suit their needs. Nevertheless, they must follow the instructions of a healthcare professional or the manufacturer to ensure safe and effective use.

History of TENS Therapy

  • 1960s: The therapy was first introduced to relieve pain. Physicians and physical therapists initially used it.
  • 1970s: Patients could access TENS therapy more at home because of the development of portable devices.
  • 1980s: TENS therapy gained popularity as a non-invasive alternative to medications for pain management.
  • 1990s: Research focused on optimising TENS therapy and exploring its effectiveness in treating various conditions like chronic pain.
  • 2000s: Technological advances created more sophisticated TENS machines with customisable settings.
  • 2010s: Individuals continued to utilise TENS in clinical settings and at home.
  • Present: Professionals recognise TENS as a safe form of pain relief. They can apply it in different settings.

A person attaching a TENS machine to the wrist of an elderly woman

How TENS System Works

A TENS system delivers gentle electrical impulses to nerve fibres. Then, it can activate different mechanisms depending on the settings. For instance, choosing high frequencies at 50-120 Hz can block pain signals from reaching the brain. Users can also accomplish this by attaching the electrode pads to or near the affected area. This method is suitable for lessening acute pain conditions.

In addition, individuals can select low frequencies at 1-9 Hz to trigger the release of endorphins. These are the natural painkillers of the human body. These natural pain-relieving chemicals can help manage chronic pain conditions because they help to reduce the perception of pain in the brain. Moreover, this method provides soothing effects, making it suitable for long-term pain management.

Furthermore, TENS can improve circulation and promote muscle recovery. Increasing blood flow to the affected area can help decrease inflammation and enhance healing. This is especially beneficial for people recovering from injuries or undergoing physical therapy. To achieve optimal results, they should follow the correct electrode placement and recommended settings.

Main Theories at Work

People interested in TENS must understand its main theories at work. Electrical nerve stimulation revolves around the pain gate mechanism. According to the Gate Control Theory, the TENS device sends electrical pulses that stop pain messages from reaching the brain. Stimulating the large A-beta fibres, which transmit non-painful touch and vibration sensations, can help with this method.

Also, TENS promotes endorphin production. Endorphins bind to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing pain perception. This mechanism stimulates the larger nerve fibres through the electrical currents. Then, this can override the sensation of pain from other areas.

A step-by-step process on how to operate an app for TENS machines

Benefits of Using a TENS System

TENS systems provide many benefits to their users. Firstly, electrical stimulation can naturally alleviate pain, aches, or discomfort. It uses low-voltage electric currents for relief. Hence, people do not have to rely often on medications or other treatments that may have unwanted side effects. TENS is an effective treatment option for different conditions.

Secondly, TENS offers flexibility and ease of use. The devices are compact. Thus, individuals can easily carry or wear them, allowing the incorporation of pain relief into their daily activities. Also, the machine usually has adjustable settings and various electrode placement options. Then, they can customise the treatment to their needs. This is more efficient for those with wireless units because they can use a mobile app.

Lastly, electrical nerve stimulation has minimal side effects compared to other pain relief methods. Pain medicines can cause drowsiness, digestive issues, or other unwanted issues. Meanwhile, utilising TENS generally has minimal risks. A potential effect would be skin irritation, which people can manage by using hypoallergenic pads or adjusting the settings.

Types of Pain Treated with TENS

Several acute and chronic pain conditions are treatable through TENS. Some examples are labour pain, menstrual cramps, postoperative pain, and sports injuries. Moreover, TENS can help manage cancer pain, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis pain. It can also aid neuropathic pain due to diabetic neuropathy and sciatica.

Additionally, TENS can reduce musculoskeletal pain. These include knee joint pain, backaches, and leg pain. However, women who will use TENS as pain relief during labour must consult with their healthcare provider before use. Also, people must consider several safety precautions, such as avoiding body parts with broken skin or open wounds.


The purpose of the TENS system is to alleviate pain naturally. It uses mild electric signals to disrupt the transmission of pain messages to the brain. In addition, it can promote the release of endorphins for further relief. TENS can also improve blood circulation. However, activating these mechanisms requires correct usage. Hence, people should place the electrode pads directly on or around the pain site. Then, they can choose from the different settings available.

TENS provides various benefits. These include not having to rely on medications or intrusive procedures as often anymore. Thus, it reduces the potential for adverse effects. Moreover, the TENS machine is portable and user-friendly. Individuals can easily incorporate it into daily activities, enabling them to carry out regular routines without significant disruptions. Furthermore, TENS can help manage different types of pain. Some examples are cancer pain, sports injuries, osteoarthritis pain, and period cramps.

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