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

The TENS Machine: What It Is, How It Works, & the Treatable Conditions

A small and large wing iTENS, refill gel pads, and necessary information

The TENS machine (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is an electronic device that delivers electrical currents to the body to relieve discomfort. Accordingly, this electrical stimulation works through various mechanisms. Foremost, it can block the transmission of pain signals. Additionally, it can trigger the release of endorphins and enhance blood circulation. With such mechanisms, TENS therapy can treat a variety of conditions. It can help manage acute pain or chronic pain conditions.

Living with different types of pain can be debilitating. Medications, physical therapy, and surgeries are common. However, the advancement of technology provides more pain management options. The TENS therapy is one such effective treatment that has been increasingly popular. It offers a method of pain relief without incorporating the potential adverse effects of medications and surgeries. The following sections will present the TENS electrical device, how it works, and the treatable conditions.

What is the TENS Machine?

The TENS machine is a small, battery-operated device that provides a natural form of pain relief by using electrical impulses. It delivers the electrical pulses to the body through electrode patches. Furthermore, TENS units are available in wired and wireless configurations. Wired TENS utilise wires to connect the electrodes to the machine. Meanwhile, wireless TENS use wireless technologies for electrode connectivity.

Nevertheless, both types of units offer various features. Most TENS devices have adjustable settings. This element enables individuals to modify the pulse rate, intensity, and pulse duration. Additionally, some modern TENS units extend pre-set programs, which offer convenience for users to access treatment parameters without manually adjusting the settings. Also, the electrode pads have different sizes and shapes.

Health professionals, clinics, and physical therapists commonly incorporate TENS therapy into the treatment plans for their patients. Moreover, athletes often utilise TENS units for their post-workout recovery and to address sports-related injuries. Individuals suffering from different types of pain may also use TENS devices. They can conduct the treatment at home or on the go.

How to Use the Unit

  • Locate the specific area of the body experiencing discomfort.
  • Clean and dry the skin in the treatment region.
  • Position the electrode patches to the skin, adhering to the proper electrode placement.
  • Turn on the TENS unit.
  • Adjust the settings or choose a pre-set program. Begin with the lowest setting and gradually increase it to a comfortable intensity.
  • Initiate the electrical stimulation.
  • Use the machine for the recommended duration. Typically, it ranges from 15 to 30 minutes.
  • After the session, turn off the device and remove the electrodes from the skin.
  • Store the device and its accessories properly for future use.

A woman using TENS on her lower back

How Does the TENS Machine Work?

The TENS machine operates through various mechanisms. Foremost, the electrical impulses from TENS can prompt the production and release of endorphins. These are the natural painkillers of the body. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that act as natural pain relievers and mood enhancers. Hence, this activity can relieve discomfort and foster a sense of well-being.

Another mechanism through which TENS works is by engaging the pain gate mechanism. The electric currents from TENS can create a sensory overload. This essentially blocks the neural pathways that convey pain messages. Nevertheless, this process can effectively “close the gate” to the transmission of pain signals. This method can result in the reduction of the perception or sensation of discomfort.

Moreover, the electrical stimulation generated by the TENS unit encourages improved blood circulation in the targeted area. This enhanced blood flow facilitates the delivery of vital nutrients and oxygen to the body tissues. Additionally, this can aid in the removal of metabolic waste products. The resulting optimisation of tissue perfusion can contribute to pain reduction and support the healing process.


TENS therapy offers a multitude of benefits. Foremost, TENS offers natural pain relief. It is non-invasive and drug-free. Thus, it eliminates the need for injections, incisions, surgeries, or the intake of medications. Furthermore, TENS units allow for customisable treatment settings. This enables personalised pain management tailored to individual needs.

The use of TENS is cost-effective. It eliminates the frequent visits to medical professionals or the ongoing cost of medications. Also, people can use TENS treatment as a complementary therapy. It can complement other treatment modalities like physical therapy, exercises, and medications. Additionally, TENS therapy only has minimal side effects.

An elderly man holding his pained knee with both hands while outdoors

Treatable Conditions with the TENS Machine

The TENS machine is adept at addressing a variety of conditions. Firstly, TENS therapy is effective in managing chronic pain conditions. These are persistent and long-term ailments. It may include arthritis pain, neck pain, and fibromyalgia. Secondly, TENS treatment offers relief for sudden acute pain conditions. This may arise from period pain, labour pain, postoperative pain, and sports injuries.

Thirdly, TENS devices are well-suited for alleviating musculoskeletal pain. This affects the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. It may include osteoarthritis pain, knee joint pain, and rheumatoid arthritis. Fourthly, TENS technology can effectively address neuropathic pain. This originates from nerve-related conditions like sciatica, diabetic neuropathy, nerve entrapment syndromes, and post-herpetic neuralgia.

Furthermore, TENS therapy is beneficial for managing muscular discomfort. This may include localised muscle soreness and fatigue. TENS can relax muscles and ease tension. Overall, the versatility of the TENS unit in addressing conditions highlights its applicability across a broad spectrum of discomfort. This makes it a valuable therapeutic tool for individuals seeking pain management solutions.

Are There Potential Side Effects?

TENS therapy is safe, but there are potential side effects that individuals should be aware of. Prolonged or excessive use of TENS electrodes may cause skin irritation. Checking the skin regularly and adhering to proper pad placement and settings may mitigate these risks. Accordingly, some individuals may have allergic reactions to the materials used in TENS electrodes. Using hypoallergenic pads may eliminate this side effect.

In some cases, the electrical stimulation from TENS may lead to minor muscle twitching. Adjusting the settings to a comfortable level can mitigate this side effect. Additionally, improper use of TENS devices may pose a risk of thermal burns.


In conclusion, the TENS machine has proven to be a beneficial tool for many people. Professionals, athletes, and individuals commonly use it. They can choose from a wired or wireless device. Accordingly, it is easy to operate. One needs to identify the treatment area and prepare the skin. Then, position the electrode pads. Finally, turn on the TENS unit and adjust the settings. Furthermore, TENS therapy works by delivering electrical currents to the body via electrodes placed on the skin.

This electrical stimulation operates through various mechanisms. It includes the pain gate mechanism and the release of endorphins. With such mechanisms, TENS can treat different conditions. Some examples include neuropathic pain, musculoskeletal pain, and muscular discomfort. Moreover, TENS therapy provides benefits. It is natural, customisable, and cost-effective. However, it is crucial to know the potential side effects of TENS. Those who want to purchase a TENS machine may check out iTENS Australia.

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