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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Unit for Cramps: A Guide for Relieving Dysmenorrhea

A woman suffering from period pain while sitting

Dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps, can be a challenging issue for many women. One possible solution for managing the discomfort is the use of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It uses a portable device that sends electrical pulses to the treatment area to provide relief. Accordingly, when using a TENS unit for crampselectrode placement is essential. It is crucial to place the pads where the cramps are most intense, usually below the belly button or the lower back.

Dealing with period pain can be a frustrating experience. This is a common condition experienced by many women during their menstrual cycle. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe cramps that interfere with daily activities. While there are various treatment options available, such as medications and heat therapy, they may not always provide the desired results. Fortunately, there is TENS therapy. This article will present how TENS work, how to use it, and the proper pad placement.

How Does a TENS Unit for Cramps Work?

TENS unit for cramps is a small, battery-operated device that delivers electrical current to the body through an electrode pad. Accordingly, it works on the principle of electrotherapy. It involves the use of electrical energy to stimulate the nerves and muscles for therapeutic purposes. This period cramp relief device alleviates pain by disrupting pain signals.

The electrical impulses can stream in High-Frequency TENS (HF) and Low-Frequency TENS (LF). These frequencies play a significant role in providing relief. HF TENS typically operates at frequencies greater than 50 Hz. As a result, it delivers rapid electrical currents that stimulate the sensory nerves. This stimulation is believed to be beneficial in addressing acute conditions.

On the other hand, LF TENS, usually below 10 Hz, works by activating a different set of nerve fibres. This stimulation is thought to modify the way pain signals are processed in the spinal cord and brain. Therefore, it is valuable in treating various chronic pain conditions. Nevertheless, incorporating high and low frequencies in TENS devices allows users to customise their treatment.

The Main Theories at Work

  • Pain gating – according to this theory, the electrical currents from TENS can close the gate in the spinal cord. This limits the transmission of pain signals to the brain, reducing the perception of menstrual pain.
  • Endorphins – these are the natural chemicals of the body that act as natural painkillers. TENS can trigger the release of endorphins, improving the quality of life.
  • Pain modulation – the electrical stimulation from TENS can modulate the activity of pain receptors. As a result, it helps reduce the pain levels of menstrual cramps.
  • Neurotransmitter – TENS may influence the release and activity of specific neurotransmitters.

An instruction guide on how to operate TENS using a smartphone app

How to Use a TENS Unit for Cramps and Other Types of Pelvic Pain

Using a TENS unit for cramps involves several key steps to ensure safe and effective application. Before operating the device, ensure that it is properly charged and has fresh batteries. Then, connect the electrodes to the unit using wires or to a smartphone via Bluetooth. Also, before applying the electrode pad, make sure to prepare the skin and follow the proper electrode placement.

Once the electrodes are positioned correctly, switch on the device. Some units may allow users to adjust the settings. This may include modifying the current intensities, the frequency of stimulation, and pulse duration. Some TENS machines may also offer preset programs for direct treatment of menstrual pain. Thus, choose the applicable one.

Nevertheless, it is vital to start with the lowest intensity and gradually increase it to a comfortable level. During the session, the user should remain still and avoid touching the electrodes to prevent interference. After the treatment is complete, the person can switch off the device and carefully remove the TENS machine pads. Then, store it properly for future use.

Proper Placement and Intensity Settings on the Device for Maximum Effectiveness and Comfort

For the proper pad placement, it is important to cleanse the skin in the area where the cramps are most intense. This ensures a good adhesion. Then, carefully position the pads on or near the site of menstrual pain. Typically, the pads can be on the lower abdomen or lower back. These are the common places where menstrual cramps tend to concentrate.

When initiating TENS therapy for dysmenorrhea, begin with the lowest intensity settings. This allows the user to acclimate to the sensation and find the most suitable stimulation. People can also look in the user manual or consult a professional for the right intensity.

A woman using a wireless TENS on her lower back

Potential Side Effects and Risks Associated With Using a TENS Unit for Cramps

When considering the use of a TENS unit for cramps, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects. Prolonged use of the electrode pads may lead to skin irritation. This is particularly true if the skin is sensitive or if the pads are not clean. This can manifest as redness, itching, or discomfort at the site of pad placement.

In some cases, the stimulation may cause involuntary muscle twitching. This can be due to a powerful intensity setting. While this is not necessarily harmful, it can be uncomfortable for people. Improper placement of the pads may also result in discomfort rather than effective relief. Thus, it is essential to know and follow the correct pad placement.

Individuals with certain conditions, such as epilepsy or heart disease, may be at risk of adverse reactions. The electrical currents may trigger seizures or further cause an ailment. While TENS can provide relief, they do not address the underlying cause of dysmenorrhea. Relying solely on TENS may mask symptoms without addressing potential underlying gynecological conditions.

Follow the Safety Guidelines Recommended by Manufacturers

In using TENS, it is essential to read and understand the instruction manual of the manufacturer carefully. The manual contains crucial information about proper usage, placement, settings, and safety precautions. Also, before using TENS, it is vital to consult medical professionals to see if the device is suitable for the specific condition.

Additionally, do not place the electrode pad on sensitive areas like broken skin, wounds, or cuts. Avoid setting the intensity too high, as this can lead to discomfort. Moreover, adhere to advisable therapy duration to avoid overstimulation. Do not use TENS while driving, operating machinery, or in contact with water.


In conclusion, using a TENS unit for cramps can be an effective and non-invasive method of pain relief. TENS work by sending electrical impulses to the nerves through electrode pads. This electrical stimulation can stream in high and low frequencies. Accordingly, it functions based on the theories of pain gate, endorphins, pain modulation, and neurotransmitters. TENS devices are easy to use. Users will need to place the electrode pads on the cramping region and adjust the settings.

Furthermore, proper pad placement is crucial in TENS therapy. Women suffering from period pain may position the electrodes on the lower abdomen and the lower back. It is also vital to set the intensity at low levels and increase it accordingly. Nevertheless, it is important to know the potential side effects of the therapy. This may include skin irritation, muscle twitching, and discomfort. TENS devices are available in online stores like iTENS Australia.

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