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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Use in Physiotherapy: The Benefits

An iTENS large wing electrode and two refill gel pads

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a form of low-voltage electrotherapy. Many healthcare professionals incorporate TENS use in physiotherapy for patients. This is because it offers many benefits for patients. It is effective for chronic and acute conditions. This includes pain from labour, arthritis, or fibromyalgia. Additionally, it is an alternative to pain medication. It is helpful for those sensitive to medication and who wish to avoid its adverse effects. Lastly, it provides targeted pain relief using externally applied electrodes.

Consulting a medical professional before using electrotherapy devices is vital. They can assess if TENS therapy is suited for the individual. Moreover, they may tailor treatment plans for the person. This includes pad placement, duration, and frequency of sessions. Doing this and following the safety guidelines from the manufacturer ensures user safety. This article will present the various benefits of using TENS during physiotherapy.

Benefits of TENS Use in Physiotherapy: Drug-Free Pain Relief

TENS use in physiotherapy is widespread. For some, it reduces or replaces their intake of oral pain medication. Many people use pain medicines because they are affordable, convenient, and effective. Moreover, several types of medicine help with different conditions, like paracetamols and opioids. However, there are also many adverse effects. These include nausea, constipation, high blood pressure, and ulcers.

Meanwhile, TENS machines use electrical currents to stimulate the natural body processes of relieving pain. High-frequency stimulation (50-120 Hz) induces spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This is called the Pain Gate Mechanism. It is effective for acute pain and takes effect within 30 minutes of the session.

Furthermore, TENS units trigger the production of endorphins using low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz). The onset is slower compared to high-frequency. It usually takes around 40 minutes as the hormones build up. This frequency is suitable for chronic pain because relief lasts hours after the session. Additionally, it is safe to use up to four times daily.

How to Use a TENS Machine

TENS machines are easy to use even without medical supervision. Here are some general guidelines on how to use a TENS machine:

  • Clean the skin with soap and water, then dry it to lessen body oil.
  • Place the electrode pads near or on the pain area.
  • Turn the machine on and start on the lowest settings.
  • Gradually increase the frequency and intensity or select a pre-set mode.
  • Follow the prescribed duration for your session. Typically, the lengthiest duration is 60 minutes.
  • Switch the device off and carefully remove the pads.
  • Clean the adhesives, then store them in a cool and dry place.

A person placing a large wing electrode on the lower back

Benefits of TENS Use in Physiotherapy: Targeted Pain Relief

One of the benefits of TENS use in physiotherapy is targeted pain relief. TENS machines use electrode pads to deliver electric currents to the skin. The placement of adhesives is adjusted to target specific areas of the body. It is effective for neck pain, lower back pain, and abdominal pain.

Moreover, the electrical stimulation has a massage-like effect. This relaxes the muscles and reduces fatigue. Additionally, endorphins improve blood circulation to the area and reduce inflammation. Together, this increases body mobility. This aids people during the rehabilitation process. It allows them to do more exercise and speed up their recovery.

Furthermore, the nerve stimulation from the electric currents reduces muscle spasms. In addition, it reduces the intensity of the pain felt. It is recommended to focus on one area per session. This allows the user to maximise the effects of the therapy. They may also use more than one electrode to deliver more power. However, individuals should follow the safety guidelines provided by the manufacturer.

Areas to Avoid

There are certain areas of the body where users should not place electrodes. These are sensitive areas that may react negatively to direct electrical stimulation. Some examples are the throat, eyes, mouth, top of the head, spine, and chest. Furthermore, avoid placing pads on joints. This is because the electrodes may slip off if the person moves.

Additionally, ensure the electrodes are at least one inch apart when using more than one. This prevents interference from occurring between the pads. Lastly, avoid placing electrodes on damaged skin. This includes irritated and infected skin or skin with rashes or wounds.

A woman with a large wing iTENS electrode on her lower back

Benefits of TENS Use in Physiotherapy: Effective for Many Conditions

TENS use in physiotherapy is effective for chronic and acute pain conditions. Physiotherapists often include TENS therapy as a pain management method because it is non-invasive. It is complementary to many other treatments. Moreover, it is not addictive and easily operated for home use.

Chronic pain is pain that lasts for longer than six months. Often, it is because of an underlying health condition. One example is arthritis or inflammation of one or more joints. Another illness is sciatica, which is pain, weakness, or numbness in the leg due to injury or pressure on the sciatic nerve. Lastly, migraines are headaches that cause severe throbbing pain. These conditions reduce the quality of life. They can also become debilitating.

Meanwhile, acute pain is described as short-lived pain. It is commonly caused by cuts, burns, or wounds. Pain during post-surgery and labour are included in this type. Typically, the pain fades as the wounds heal. However, it is still uncomfortable. In some cases, it may even turn into chronic pain.

Safety Precautions

Some people should avoid using electrotherapy devices. This is because their current conditions may react negatively to electrotherapy. Consult a medical professional to ensure safety before using these devices. These include people with a history of cancer, seizures, and heart disease. Moreover, those with electrical and metal implants, like pacemakers, should abstain from using TENS. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid using TENS before labour.

Furthermore, do not use TENS machines while submerged in water. In addition, refrain from sleeping while using TENS. Do not overuse the machine to avoid overstimulation. Lastly, do not drive or operate heavy machinery during TENS therapy.


TENS use in physiotherapy may increase the recovery period of the individual. It provides effective pain relief for many conditions. Additionally, it helps improve body processes and increases mobility. Its effect of reducing inflammation and relaxing stressed muscles enables the individual to do more. This is beneficial while doing exercise and other physiotherapy treatments. Moreover, it allows them to avoid the adverse effects of pain medication.

TENS therapy is a non-invasive pain management option. However, the user should consult a healthcare professional before using one. Additionally, they should purchase reliable devices for effective pain relief. There are many options available online or in pharmacies. The wireless iTENS from iTENS Australia is one option. It uses innovative wing-shaped electrodes that are discreet and comfortable to wear. Furthermore, it has many pre-set modes available through the smartphone app for convenient alleviation of pain in various settings.

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