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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Therapy Pain Relief: Everything You Need to Know

An elderly woman sitting on a chair while using a TENS machine of her arms and reading a book

Physical therapists and other medical professionals often use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS therapy for pain relief. It can naturally relieve aches and discomfort. TENS utilises an electronic device and one or more sets of electrode patches. Subsequently, the unit delivers mild electrical pulses to the body. Users can activate the pain-gating mechanism to reduce acute pain conditions. These include postoperative pain. Additionally, TENS can trigger endorphin production, which is suitable for treating chronic pain in adults like arthritis.

Individuals typically rely on medications or intrusive procedures for pain control. However, these traditional methods of pain relief may be uncomfortable or cause adverse events. Thus, having alternative treatment options is essential. One of the most in-demand natural pain relievers is TENS. Its effects may vary from person to person, but it is generally safe. For more information about electrical nerve stimulation, the following sections will present what it is, how it works, and what conditions it can treat.

What is TENS Therapy for Pain Relief?

TENS therapy for pain relief is a non-invasive and drug-free treatment option. Healthcare providers and individuals utilise a small electrical device and adhesive electrode pads. The TENS unit emits gentle electrical currents to stimulate nerve cells. Then, it can activate several mechanisms of action to reduce pain sensations. People can go to a pain clinic or hospital to receive TENS. Moreover, they can buy a personal machine from online or physical retailers.

Traditionally, TENS devices are wired or handheld. They require wires to connect the electrode patches to the control panel or generator. Nowadays, wireless and wearable TENS units are available. Users can have more freedom of movement. Hence, it is beneficial for on-the-go pain relief. Also, non-wired machines can connect to Bluetooth for easy control through a smartphone app.

Operating TENS devices is simple. Individuals must place the electrodes on the skin surface of the pain area. Then, they can turn the unit on. After a while, they can adjust the settings manually or remotely, whichever is available. They can undergo each session for 20-30 minutes. Once done, turn the machine off and remove the pads.

Brief History of TENS Therapy

  • 1960s: Melzack and Wall proposed the Gate Control Theory of Pain, leading to the development of TENS. It uses low-voltage electric currents to alleviate pain by stimulating the nerves.
  • 1970s: TENS devices became commercially available for therapeutic use. Initially, healthcare professionals primarily used them in clinics and hospitals.
  • 1980s: The machines became more portable and affordable, resulting in their use in home settings. Hence, individuals can self-administer TENS therapy.
  • 1990s: Research studies explored the effectiveness of TENS for various conditions. These supported its use as a non-pharmacological pain relief method.
  • 2000s: Technological advancements cause TENS to be more user-friendly and customisable, introducing new features.

A woman using a TENS machine on her lower back and arm while looking at her phone

How TENS Therapy for Pain Relief Works

TENS therapy for pain relief works by applying electrical pulses to the skin. Its primary mechanism lies in the Gate Control Theory. It theorises that pain signals travel to the brain through specific nerve pathways. With TENS, it stimulates non-painful nerves that activate larger nerve fibres. Then, it floods the affected nerves to close the gate and prevent pain messages from reaching the brain.

Moreover, electrical stimulation can boost the release of endorphins. These natural pain-killing chemicals can ease tension and promote a sense of well-being. Increasing endorphin levels through TENS can provide natural pain relief without pain medicines. Consequently, users can lessen their discomfort with a non-addictive treatment option.

People can choose high frequencies to prompt the pain-gating mechanism. Then, they can select low frequencies to generate electrical currents that can boost natural painkillers. Individuals can use the buttons on their TENS machines to control the settings. Meanwhile, those with wireless units can utilise their mobile phones to control them remotely.


TENS offers a range of benefits. Firstly, this popular method of pain relief is natural. It does not involve over-the-counter medications or inserting needles into their bodies. Secondly, TENS devices are user-friendly and portable. Thus, anyone can buy one and operate without difficulty. Also, they can bring it anywhere.

Lastly, TENS offers adjustable settings. Hence, individuals can personalise their pain relief experience. This flexibility makes TENS therapy accessible to many, including those who may not be able to tolerate some medications or who wish to avoid potential side effects. Overall, it provides a safe, effective, and convenient pain management approach.

A person using four TENS pads on their leg

Types of Pain Treated with TENS Therapy for Pain Relief

TENS therapy for pain relief can help with different types of health issues. One of these is chronic pain conditions. These last for long periods and can be debilitating for those who suffer from them. Some examples are chronic back pain and arthritis. Additionally, TENS can manage acute pain. These include postoperative pain, period cramps, labour pain, and sports injuries.

Another type of pain TENS can treat is musculoskeletal pain. This includes aches or discomfort in the muscles, joints, bones, and ligaments. For instance, people may suffer from tendonitis or bursitis. Also, they may have neck or shoulder pain. An advantage of TENS over others is it allows users to utilise two or more electrode patches to target multiple areas of pain at once.

Furthermore, TENS can help reduce neuropathic pain. It occurs when there is damage or dysfunction in the nerves, leading to heightened sensitivity and constant discomfort. Some conditions are diabetic neuropathies and phantom limb pain. This natural form of pain relief can treat these health issues, but consulting a doctor beforehand is necessary.

Are There Potential Side Effects?

TENS therapy comes with minimal potential side effects. However, in some cases, a few individuals may experience mild adverse effects such as tingling, skin irritation, or muscle twitching at the electrode placement site. These are often temporary. To prevent this, follow the instructions of health professionals and the manufacturer.

Moreover, some people may experience allergic reactions to the adhesives of electrode pads. These allergic reactions may result in redness, itching, or rash at the application site. Additionally, extra discomfort may occur when users apply the patches over some body parts. Hence, avoid attaching them directly to the spinal cord or the front of the neck.


TENS therapy for pain relief is a natural treatment method. This non-invasive technique has gained popularity due to its benefits. It utilises a handy device that produces electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves. Then, TENS can boost endorphin production and block pain signals. As a result, users experience a reduction in pain perceptions. They can utilise adjustable settings to suit their preferences. Moreover, they can seamlessly incorporate TENS into daily routines for optimal results.

TENS can manage various types of pain. These include chronic pain conditions like arthritis and back pain. In addition, it can help with acute pain conditions such as labour pain and menstrual cramps. Furthermore, the technique can help alleviate neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain. In summary, TENS reduces pain symptoms and improves overall quality of life. Its non-addictive nature makes it a safer alternative to medications and opioids, often associated with adverse side effects and dependency.

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