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TENS Therapy in Physiotherapy: What It Is and the Benefits

An elderly woman sitting on a chair while using TENS on her wrist and reading a book

Healthcare professionals trust physiotherapy for treating musculoskeletal conditions and injuries. Traditional methods such as massage, heat therapy, and exercises are effective. However, advancements in technology have brought forth new and innovative options. One example is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS therapy in physiotherapy. It is a non-invasive treatment that uses low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate the nerves. Consequently, it reduces pain, improves range of motion, and supports healing.

Individuals with conditions like postoperative pain, joint pain, neck pain, and nerve pain often rely on therapy to alleviate discomfort. Thus, they typically go to physiotherapy clinics or pain clinics, where TENS is utilised. Physical therapists regulate the intensity of the impulses. They usually start low and increase gradually. Subsequently, the stimulation quells pain messages from reaching the brain. To learn more about TENS, the following sections will present what it is, its benefits, and how it works.

What is a TENS Therapy in Physiotherapy?

TENS therapy in physiotherapy involves a battery-operated device and sets of electrodes. It delivers mild electric currents to the target body area. This therapy has positive effects like less pain and inflammation. Physiotherapists can adjust the settings depending on the specific condition of the patient. Additionally, advanced technology allows people to use the machine without medical supervision. Thus, they can buy one and operate it on their own.

Before a TENS session, medical providers or individuals must attach the electrode pads to the skin. They can place it directly on or near the pain site. However, they must avoid areas with broken skin or body parts like the spinal cord, front of the neck, and the head. During the procedure, the patient may feel a tingling or buzzing sensation. However, there should not be painful stimulations. Otherwise, the intensity of the electrical pulses must be reduced.

Overall, TENS therapy is a non-invasive and drug-free option for managing pain and promoting healing in physiotherapy. It can treat a wide range of conditions naturally. Nevertheless, consulting with a qualified physiotherapist before undergoing it is vital.

The Conditions It Can Treat

  • Arthritis – Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other forms of inflammatory joint disease can cause severe pain and stiffness in the lower back. The electrode placement can be on either side of the spine.
  • Neuropathic pain – An underlying neurologic disorder, such as diabetic neuropathy or trigeminal neuralgia, can cause this. Individuals can apply the pads on the affected area, such as the wrist, neck, shoulder, or legs.
  • Sports injuries – Commonly seen in running, jumping, and contact sports. Therapists or users can attach the electrodes to the affected area, such as the thigh, calf, shoulder, or back, depending on the type of injury.

A newscaster reporting about TENS as a new pain relief

The Benefits of TENS Therapy in Physiotherapy

The healthcare industry and many people utilise TENS therapy in physiotherapy because of its benefits. It is a natural form of pain relief. Instead of prescription drugs, this treatment stimulates the natural pain relievers of the body, which are endorphins. Hence, it is suitable for chronic and acute pain conditions. Moreover, it can improve blood flow and promote relaxation.

In addition, TENS therapy can help with muscle rehabilitation and muscle re-education. Sending electrical impulses to a specific body area can strengthen muscles and prevent muscle atrophy. Furthermore, therapists and individuals can use it as an adjunct to other physiotherapy treatments. Thus, it enhances the overall effectiveness of the rehabilitation process.

Another benefit of TENS is its non-invasive nature. Unlike some other methods, it does not require injections or needles, reducing the risk of adverse reactions. This makes it a safe and low-risk option for people. Overall, TENS therapy offers a wide range of benefits. Therefore, it is a valuable tool to incorporate into treatment plans.

Is It Effective?

TENS is an effective treatment for certain types of pain. However, people must use it properly for optimal results. For instance, they should use the correct settings and adjust them as necessary. Additionally, they should place the electrodes in the appropriate spots on their body for best results.

Moreover, TENS is a good option for those who cannot take certain pain medicines due to allergies or other medical conditions. It can be used alone or with other treatments, such as exercise or manual therapy. When individuals operate it accordingly, they can experience significant relief from acute and chronic pain conditions.

A TENS machine kit with a pack of gel pads and necessary information

How a TENS Therapy in Physiotherapy Works

TENS therapy in physiotherapy produces electrical pulses to the affected area via electrodes. These pulses help block pain signals from travelling to the brain. This is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It suggests that electrical nerve stimulation can interfere with pain transmission. The frequency of use for this method is high, ranging from 50 to 120 Hz. This is suitable for people with acute pain conditions.

In addition, TENS can stimulate the production of endorphins. This helps to alleviate discomfort and promote relaxation in the muscles. Individuals can use low frequencies, which are typically less than 10 Hz. Those with chronic pain conditions, such as arthritic pain, sciatica pain, and fibromyalgia, can find this beneficial.

Aside from different levels of pain relief, TENS can improve blood circulation, reduce muscle tension, and promote healing in injured tissues. This makes it a versatile and effective tool in physiotherapy for a wide range of conditions. All in all, TENS can be a valuable part of a comprehensive treatment plan for managing pain and improving overall function and mobility.


TENS is generally safe, but it is essential to be cautious and take certain precautions. One of these is to avoid attaching the electrode pads to areas with skin irritation, like burns. Otherwise, it can further aggravate the condition. Moreover, carefully monitor the intensity of the electrical stimulation to avoid overstimulation, especially for individuals with decreased sensation or nerve damage.

Also, refrain from placing the pads over the chest area, especially for individuals with cardiac conditions or pacemakers. This is crucial to prevent interference with the functioning of the cardiac devices. Additionally, it lessens the potential risks to the health.


TENS therapy in physiotherapy is a valuable medical treatment. It is a non-invasive method of pain relief. This type of electrical stimulation can manage different acute and chronic pain conditions, like musculoskeletal pain. It is a safe option that does not involve needles or medications. Thus, it minimises the risk of adverse effects. TENS uses mild electrical currents to stop pain messages from going to the brain. Additionally, it triggers the release of endorphins and enhances blood flow.

Furthermore, regular TENS therapy sessions can improve muscle function and enhance the overall quality of life. People can undergo one with the help of a physiotherapist. In addition, they have the option to buy a personal unit to operate at home or work. Nevertheless, consulting with a medical professional before administering it is necessary. Overall, TENS therapy serves as an effective and safe alternative or adjunct to traditional pain management techniques.

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