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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine: Overview

An iTENS electrode and refill gel pads

Living with pain is unpleasant and decreases the quality of life. Fortunately, people may use a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine to alleviate their aches. It is a non-invasive electrotherapy that uses electrode patches to deliver low-voltage electric currents to the skin. This triggers the body to block pain messages and release endorphins. To use TENS, place the electrode near or on the pain source, then adjust the settings.

TENS units help people with various conditions. It is effective for postoperative pain, arthritis, and diabetic neuropathy. The standard features people may expect when looking at TENS devices are reusable pads, adjustable settings, and batteries. People may buy wired or wireless TENS from online stores, pharmacies, and medical supply stores. However, consulting a healthcare professional before doing so is recommended. This article will present all about TENS machines, how they work, and how to use them.

What is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine, or TENS machine, is an electrotherapy device that alleviates pain from various conditions. It delivers electrical currents to the body using electrode patches. Generally, there are two types of TENS units: wired and wireless. Wired or handheld units are often seen in hospitals and pain clinics. These use lead cables to connect the electrode pads to the controller and power supply.

Meanwhile, wireless units are known for their convenience. These remove the restriction of lead cables. Instead, they use Bluetooth technology to adjust the output settings. In some cases, it comes with a separate controller, while others have a smartphone application for controlling the electrodes. Many find this type ideal because it is easier to set up, and many have advanced features.

People may buy personal TENS devices online, in pharmacies, and in medical supply stores. An individual does not need prescriptions to purchase one. However, consulting a medical professional before buying one is ideal. Professionals may assess the condition and determine if TENS suits the patient.

Standard Features of the Device

  • Reusable electrode pads: many manufacturers offer adhesive pads that last between 15 to 20 uses.
  • Adjustable settings: a vital part of versatile pain relief with TENS is adjustable intensity, frequencies, and pulse-width settings.
  • Timer: many are equipped with these as a safety precaution so users do not accidentally overuse the machine.
  • Batteries: these are either replaceable or rechargeable. Many prefer rechargeable batteries because they can ensure the machine will not run out of power during the session.
  • Portable designs: this allows people to use them in various locations. In particular, wireless TENS enables discreet use underneath clothing.

An elderly woman reading a book while using iTENS

How a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine Works

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine uses electrical stimulation to trigger the body into relieving pain. Users may personalise their treatment by experimenting with the ideal settings for them. Generally, TENS machines have a frequency range of 1-150 Hz and an intensity range of 0-80 mA.  People may also use different modes. This includes the burst, continuous, and modulation modes.

High-frequency stimulation (50-120 Hz) triggers spinal nerve fibres to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This is the mechanism suggested in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It takes effect quickly, making it suitable for acute pain conditions. Furthermore, this setting increases blood flow to the area and can relax tense muscles.

Low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) triggers the production of endogenous opioids. These natural pain relievers build up and reduce the overall aches felt. Furthermore, endorphins can help reduce inflammation and stress. Many with chronic pain conditions use this because its effects last hours after the session. Overall, using TENS provides drug-free stimulation for pain relief.

Conditions that Can Be Treated

TENS is effective at relieving pain from various conditions. Many people use it for different body aches, which may reduce their intake of pain medications. People also use it for postoperative pain, which typically occurs after surgery and can radiate throughout the body. In addition, many women use it for period pain. It provides relief at the start of their menstrual cycle.

TENS can also help with conditions like arthritis. Many experience stiffness and joint pain because of this illness. It causes pain in adults and children. Another condition TENS can alleviate pain from is diabetic retinopathy. This ailment causes neuropathic pain and numbness.

A person placing an iTENS electrode on an elderly woman's wrist

How to Operate a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Machine

Operating a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine is a straightforward process. People may read the instruction manual from the device manufacturer to understand how to use their machine. They may also consult a healthcare professional to learn how to use the unit for their condition.

Before starting, people should clean their skin with soap and water. This removes excess body oils and lotions, which allows the electrode patches to apply better. Then, the user may place the adhesives near or on the origin of the pain. When the pads are secure, they may turn the machine on. Ideally, start with low settings to prevent sudden shocks or discomfort. Afterwards, gradually increase them or select a preset mode.

Typically, TENS sessions last between 20 to 30 minutes. However, this varies depending on the settings used and the condition. Nevertheless, it is crucial to adhere to the prescribed duration to avoid adverse effects. This includes mild burns, skin irritation, and muscle spasms. Once the time has elapsed, the user may turn the machine off and remove the electrode patches.

Proper Pad Placement Guide and Instructions

Proper electrode placement is vital for the effective delivery of electric currents to the body. Generally, users must place pads on muscle areas near or on the pain source. For example, they may attach the pads two inches below the skull, on the back of the neck, for neck pain. For knee pain, users place pads around the knee joint.

It is crucial to avoid sensitive areas when applying pads. This helps ensure safety and prevents adverse effects. Some examples of sensitive areas are the spinal cord, eyes, throat, chest, and joints. In addition, avoiding irritated, infected, or broken skin is recommended.


A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation machine provides non-invasive pain alleviation for many people. TENS therapy is an alternative pain management method that helps individuals reduce their dependency on medications. It is effective for different body aches, period pain, and arthritis. Moreover, it is easy to use. The user may refer to a pad placement guide to learn where to put the pads for their condition. Then, once the pads are secure, they may adjust the settings to their ideal levels.

There are many options for wired and wireless TENS available on the market. People may purchase them without prescriptions. However, it is still advised to consult a health professional before using one. This ensures safety and proper use for their condition. Moreover, it is important to ensure the product has standard features like reusable pads, adjustable settings, and batteries. One prospect for a wireless TENS is the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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