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TENS Use: What are the Conditions It Can Treat?

A newscaster reporting about TENS as a new pain relief

Pain in adults can have a huge impact on their everyday lives. It can hinder them from finishing their tasks efficiently. Fortunately, they can better manage the discomfort using alternative therapies, such as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). It utilises a portable device that emits mild electrical impulses that stimulate the nerves. Regular TENS use can help reduce the intensity of pain. It is beneficial for people with musculoskeletal pain, neuropathic pain, knee joint pain, and postoperative pain.

Individuals can experience physical and mental exhaustion due to pain. Thus, they typically turn to medications for relief. However, these can often come with unwanted side effects. This is why the availability of TENS is invaluable. Understanding more about this form of pain relief is important to make an informed decision. Hence, the following sections will present what it is, what various conditions it can treat, and what safety guidelines to always remember.

TENS Use – What Is It?

TENS is a therapy that uses low-voltage electrical currents to relieve pain. One of the other TENS uses is to provide relaxation. This treatment involves placing electrodes on the skin where there is pain. TENS sends electrical pulses to the nerves, which helps block pain signals from reaching the brain. Moreover, it can trigger the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals.

TENS is a non-invasive and drug-free pain relief option. People can use it at home or under the guidance of a healthcare professional. When operating it, it is important to start with a low and comfortable intensity. They can gradually increase the settings as necessary. There are pre-set modes that target specific acute pain and chronic pain conditions.

TENS is generally safe, but it is not suitable for everyone. Individuals with certain medical conditions, such as a pacemaker or heart problems, should avoid it. As with any medical treatment, they should discuss the use of TENS with a healthcare provider to ensure it is appropriate for their needs. TENS is available in wireless or handheld units, and people can get them from online or physical stores.

How It Works

Here is the process regarding how TENS works:

  • People attach the sets of electrode pads on or near the area of pain. Then, the electrical pulses travel through the nerves to the spinal cord and brain.
  • The electrical currents help to disrupt pain messages from reaching the brain, providing relief from pain.
  • Electrical nerve stimulation may also stimulate the production of endorphins, which can further alleviate discomfort.
  • Additionally, TENS may improve blood circulation to the area. Hence, it promotes healing and reduces inflammation.
  • Furthermore, the electrical device offers massage modes by providing a tingling sensation. This can ease bodily tension.

A woman touching her head and lower back due to pain

TENS Use – The Conditions that Can be Treated

By delivering mild electric currents to the skin through electrodes, TENS use can help with various chronic pain conditions. An example is arthritis, which affects millions of people around the world. Moreover, it can manage fibromyalgia. It occurs when the muscles become overly sensitive and cause pain in response to normally harmless stimuli.

In addition, TENS, as a method of pain relief is beneficial for people with nerve-related pain conditions. There is diabetic neuropathy, where nerve damage results in sharp, burning pain in the feet and hands. Phantom limb pain is another one that happens due to the nerve signals sent from the amputated limb to the brain. Pain messages often cause the patient to feel discomfort, even though the limb is not there anymore.

Furthermore, electrical nerve stimulation can treat acute pain conditions. Athletes who suffer from sports injuries can utilise TENS as it lessens muscle and joint pain. It can also provide relief for people who suffer from postoperative pain. Also, period pain is a condition that TENS can help with since it reduces the intensity of menstrual cramps.

Low and High Frequencies

Low-frequency TENS, typically set between 2-10 Hz, is commonly used in treating chronic pain conditions. It is effective in providing long-lasting pain relief. This method of pain relief works by activating the natural pain management mechanisms of the body, which are endorphins.

On the other hand, high-frequency TENS is usually set between 50-100 Hz. Individuals often utilise it for the treatment of acute pain. It works by overriding the pain signals sent to the brain. This provides immediate relief. The electrical stimulation also helps improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation. Thus, it is suitable for managing short-term pain due to injuries or surgeries.

A TENS machine kit with two packs of gel pads and necessary information

TENS Use – The Safety Guidelines

TENS is a non-invasive pain relief technique. During TENS use, it is important to follow safety guidelines to prevent any potential risks or adverse effects. Firstly, it is crucial to use the device as instructed by a healthcare professional or the instructions from the manual. Doctors can advise on proper electrode placement to maximise the effects of TENS therapy.

Secondly, do not place the electrodes over open wounds or on areas of broken skin. Otherwise, it can worsen the condition and lead to infection. Moreover, it is important to always start with the lowest settings to avoid sudden shocks. People can increase the stimulation for pain relief gradually. Also, regularly monitor the skin throughout the session for any discomfort or skin irritation.

Thirdly, avoid placing the electrodes near the eyes, mouth, or the front of the neck. This is because the electrical currents could interfere with vital functions. Furthermore, never use electrical nerve stimulation units while driving or operating heavy machinery. Lastly, individuals with certain medical conditions, such as epilepsy, should consult a doctor first to ensure their safety for their situation.

Is It Safe to Use Everyday?

Yes, individuals can safely use TENS every day. However, they must follow professional advice. In addition, they should properly operate the electronic device. When they administer the therapy correctly, such as utilising adequate intensities, TENS is an effective and natural form of pain relief.

It is also important not to exceed the recommended usage time or intensity levels. Using TENS for extended periods or at high-intensity levels can potentially cause the overstimulation of the muscles. This results in a state of fatigue. Therefore, people should not use the device for more than 30 minutes at a time.


TENS is a form of electrotherapy that manages pain. It uses handy devices to send electrical signals through electrodes, which people need to place on the skin near the pain area. The mild pulses help to disrupt pain signals from being sent to the brain. Regular TENS use treats chronic pain conditions like osteoarthritis and bursitis. Moreover, it can manage acute pain, such as muscle strains and period pain. It can also provide relief during labour.

Individuals who want to administer TENS therapy sessions should adhere to safety guidelines. For instance, they must utilise adequate intensities to avoid tissue damage and skin burns. In addition, the duration of each session should range from 15 minutes to 30 minutes at a time. Furthermore, always seek guidance from a healthcare professional and be mindful of any underlying medical conditions that may affect their overall well-being.

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