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TENS Treatment: What Types of Pain Can It Manage?

A female news anchor reporting about the new faster way of pain relief

Dealing with pain can be a constant struggle, especially when it disrupts everyday life. One popular form of pain relief is the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS treatment. It utilises an electronic device to send electrical current to the body. Accordingly, electrical stimulation works in different mechanisms to help manage various types of pain. TENS is valuable in managing chronic pain or acute pain. Also, it is beneficial in addressing neuropathic painmusculoskeletal pain, and sore muscles.

Pain is a common condition. Whether it is caused by an injury, health issues, or simply the wear and tear of everyday life. Hence, finding a method of pain relief is a top priority. Traditional pain management methods often involve medications, physical therapy, or even surgery. However, there is a non-invasive approach that has been gaining attention – TENS. This article will present how TENS therapy works, including the types of pain it can treat and how to apply it.

How Does a TENS Treatment Work?

TENS treatment works by leveraging the natural mechanisms of the body to alleviate discomfort. When TENS delivers electrical pulses to the underlying nerves, it triggers several physiological responses. Accordingly, TENS therapy stimulates the release of endorphins. These are the natural pain-relieving chemicals of the body. By increasing endorphin levels, the treatment promotes a greater sense of well-being.

Furthermore, TENS operates on the principle of a pain gate mechanism. It suggests that non-painful input can close the gates to pain signals. When the TENS unit delivers electric current, it sends non-painful sensory input that competes with and overrides the transmission of pain messages. This modulation can effectively diminish the sensation of pain, providing individuals with a sense of relief.

Electric nerve stimulation can also promote increased blood flow to the treatment area. By stimulating the nerves and underlying muscle tissue, TENS therapy helps to dilate blood vessels. Enhanced blood circulation delivers vital oxygen and nutrients to the body tissues. Also, this can alleviate muscle tension, reduce inflammation, and boost healing.

Benefits of the Therapy

  • Non-invasive: TENS does not require surgical incisions or invasive medical procedures. This nature makes it an attractive option for individuals who prefer to avoid invasive interventions.
  • Drug-free: TENS offers an alternative to medication-based pain relief. This reduces the potential for adverse drug reactions and dependencies.
  • Customisable: users can modify the pulse rate, intensity, and duration of the electrical currents. This tailors the treatment to address specific discomforts and sensitivities.
  • Portable: the lightweight design of TENS enables individuals to integrate the therapy at home or on the go.
  • Cost-effective: it is a practical choice for people looking to manage their conditions without incurring substantial financial burdens.

A man holding his nape and lower back due to pain

Types of Pain Addressed by TENS Treatment

The TENS treatment has demonstrated efficacy in addressing diverse types of pain. Firstly, TENS is beneficial in managing acute conditions, which typically arise suddenly. This may include labour pain, postoperative pain, and primary dysmenorrhea. Secondly, TENS can aid chronic conditions, which are persistent. It involves ailments like arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, shoulder, and backaches.

Neuropathic pain, arising from damage or dysfunction of the nervous system, represents another type of pain that TENS can effectively manage. Diabetic neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia are examples of the condition. Also, TENS therapy is suitable for addressing musculoskeletal pain. It is a discomfort that originates from bones, ligaments, and tendons. Knee osteoarthritis pain is a common example.

Accordingly, TENS can effectively target muscle-related pain. This may result from overuse, muscle tension, or injury. Nevertheless, individuals experiencing muscle spasms, tension headaches, or exercise-related discomfort can find relief from TENS. The therapy provides efficacy in managing a range of pain types, contributing to improved comfort and functional well-being.

What Areas to Avoid?

Individuals should avoid applying TENS to areas with impaired sensation. These regions can compromise the ability to accurately perceive the intensity of electrical currents, leading to discomfort. Also, it is essential to avoid placing the electrode pads near the eyes. The delicate nature of ocular tissues and the potential for electrical pulses to affect vision make it crucial to refrain from using TENS in the eyes.

Additionally, do not apply TENS over the front of the neck. Moreover, it is important to avoid positioning the electrodes across the chest. This can interfere with the regular activity of the heart and may pose risks.

A person applying TENS on the hand of an elderly woman

How to Apply a TENS Treatment

When applying TENS treatment, it is important to follow the proper steps to ensure effective therapy. Firstly, ensure the TENS unit is functioning correctly, the battery is charged or fresh, and the electrodes are clean and in good condition. Secondly, connect the sets of electrodes to the central unit using lead cables or to a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless.

Then, the individual should clean and dry the treatment area. This helps to improve the adherence of the electrodes and promotes optimal electrical conductivity. Next, position the pads, following the proper electrode placement. Once the pads are in place, the user can turn on the unit. The device may allow the individual to adjust the settings or choose a pre-set program.

Nevertheless, it is advisable to start with the lowest settings and moderately increase it to a comfortable level. Accordingly, the duration of the treatment session can vary based on individual preferences. However, the recommended duration lasts between 15 to 30 minutes. After completing the TENS therapy, the individual can turn off the device and remove the electrodes from the skin.

Safety Considerations

Before undergoing TENS therapy, it is crucial to consult a medical professional or physical therapist. This is particularly true for individuals with underlying health conditions. When using TENS, do not place the electrodes on the eyes, head, mouth, throat, chest, broken skin, or open wounds. Also, avoid starting the therapy with high settings. This can cause electrical shock and further discomfort.

Throughout the session, the user should be attentive to the sensations experienced at the electrode placement site. Unusual sensations such as burning or stinging should be addressed immediately. Moreover, do not use the device while driving, sleeping, or operating machinery.


In summary, TENS treatment is a valuable therapeutic option for managing pain. It is a therapy that utilises electrical currents to stimulate underlying nerves. Accordingly, it works by blocking the pain signals from reaching the brain. Also, it triggers the release of endorphins and promotes blood circulation. With such mechanisms, TENS can address different types of pain. This may include primary dysmenorrhea, labour pain, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, tension headaches, and osteoarthritis.

Furthermore, TENS therapy provides numerous benefits. It is non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, portable, and drug-free. Individuals can apply the treatment easily. The user needs to identify the treatment area, place the electrodes, adjust the settings, and activate the stimulation. Nevertheless, it is crucial to know the safety guidelines and the areas to avoid. This knowledge contributes to having a safe and effective TENS therapy. The device is available in stores, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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