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

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Machines: The Need to Know

A TENS machine kit with a pack of refillable gel pads and necessary information

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS machine is an electronic device that uses electrical currents to alleviate different types of pain. This electrical stimulation works by blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. Also, the electrical impulses can stimulate the release of endorphins. Furthermore, individuals can operate TENS units easily. Start by preparing the device. Then, locate the treatment area and place the electrode patches. Finally, turn on the machine and adjust the settings.

Acute pain or chronic pain is a prevalent issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Traditional pain management techniques often involve pain medications, physical therapy, and exercises. However, they may not always provide the desired level of pain relief. Hence, many individuals seek alternative remedies to alleviate conditions effectively. One method of pain relief gaining popularity is TENS therapy. This article will present TENS machines, including how they work and how to operate them.

What is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Machines?

The advancement of technology in the medical field has led to the development of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS machines. It is a battery-powered device that delivers electrical pulses to the nerves via electrodes placed on the skin. Consequently, these electrical devices are commonly used by pain clinics, physical therapists, health professionals, and individuals.

TENS machines come in two main types: wired and wireless. Traditional (wired) TENS are designed with wired connections between the device and the electrode pads. Conversely, advanced (wireless) TENS utilise wireless technology for greater portability and flexibility. Users can control the stimulation for pain relief manually or on a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth technology.

Both types offer various features. Most TENS units have adjustable settings. This is to control the pulse rate, pulse intensity, and pulse duration. Furthermore, some TENS models extend pre-set programs and rechargeable batteries. Nevertheless, undergoing TENS therapy is safe. However, it is crucial to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if an individual has an underlying medical condition.

Types of Pain Suitable for TENS Therapy

  • Acute pain conditions: typically arise suddenly and can result from labour pain, period pain, postoperative pain, and tension headaches.
  • Chronic pain conditions: persists over an extended period. Conditions such as backaches, fibromyalgia, and arthritis pain may produce chronic discomfort.
  • Neuropathic pain: results from damage or malfunction of the nervous system. TENS can be effective in addressing conditions like sciatica and diabetic neuropathy.
  • Musculoskeletal pain: involves the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. This may stem from ailments like knee joint pain and osteoarthritis pain.
  • Muscular discomfort: this can stem from muscle tension, overexertion, or repetitive strain.

A woman placing TENS on the back of another person while also wearing one on her arm

How a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Machines Works

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS machines work based on several mechanisms. Foremost, TENS activates the pain gate mechanism. The nervous system can only process a limited amount of sensory information at one time. Accordingly, the electric currents from TENS can travel faster than the pain signals. This effectively closes the “gate” to the transmission of pain messages to the brain.

Furthermore, TENS therapy stimulates the production and release of endorphins. These are the natural pain relievers of the body. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that function to reduce the perception of discomfort and promote feelings of well-being. By activating nerve fibres, TENS machines prompt the release of endorphins. Hence, this contributes to the overall sense of comfort.

TENS treatment also impacts blood flow within the targeted area. The electrical currents from TENS can cause vasodilation. This is the widening of blood vessels. As a result, it increases blood circulation in the region. This delivers more oxygen and nutrients to body tissues while aiding in the removal of metabolic by-products. Nevertheless, this activity reduces inflammation and promotes healing.


One of the primary benefits of TENS is its ability to offer targeted relief. This approach enhances the precision and effectiveness of pain management. Moreover, TENS therapy is non-invasive. It does not require injections or surgical procedures. Also, TENS offer drug-free treatment solutions. This makes it favourable for people who may prefer to avoid reliance on medications.

TENS machines are also highly customisable. This allows individuals to tailor therapy to suit specific needs and preferences. Furthermore, TENS treatment is cost-effective. It eliminates the ongoing cost of medication or frequent visits to clinics. Additionally, TENS devices are usually portable, lightweight, and compact.

A woman manually operating TENS on her back

How to Operate a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Machines

To operate a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS machine, users should follow several steps. Firstly, ensure that the device is adequately charged, has fresh batteries, or is connected to a power source. Secondly, connect the electrode pads to the central unit or a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless. Thirdly, identify the treatment area and prepare the skin.

Next, remove the protective backing from the electrodes and firmly apply the pad to the skin. Adhering to the proper electrode placement is crucial in this step. Following electrode placement, turn on the TENS machine. This may include adjusting the settings (frequency, intensity, and duration) or choosing a pre-set program. Start with the lowest setting and moderately increase it to a comfortable level.

Throughout the therapy session, pay close attention to any sensations. This information can guide the adjustment of the settings. Consequently, the duration of the treatment usually lasts for about 15 to 30 minutes. After the TENS therapy is completed, turn off the machine and carefully remove the electrode patches. Store the TENS device in a safe and dry location for future use.

Proper Pad Placement

Foremost, identify the area of discomfort. Once the area is identified, clean and dry the skin to ensure good contact between the pads and the skin. Then, position the electrode pads. If the pain is localised, place the pads on either side of the painful area. Conversely, if the discomfort is widespread, position them around the painful region.

Nevertheless, it is essential to place the pads at least one inch apart. This is to prevent the electrical currents from overlapping and causing discomfort. Additionally, avoid placing the electrodes on the head, eyes, mouth, chest, throat, bony areas, and broken skin.


Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS machines have proven effective in relieving pain for various conditions. These devices are available in wired and wireless forms and are commonly used by professionals and individuals. Consequently, TENS works by blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain, prompting the release of endorphins, and enhancing blood flow. Nevertheless, TENS is suitable for treating acute and chronic pain. This also includes managing musculoskeletal, muscle, and nerve pain.

Furthermore, TENS offers a multitude of benefits. It is non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, cost-effective, portable, and can provide targeted relief. Moreover, operating the device is straightforward. Begin by checking and preparing the unit. Then, locate the painful area, prepare the skin, and place the electrode patches. Finally, turn on the machine, adjust the settings or, choose a program, and initiate the stimulation. However, it is crucial to follow the proper pad placement for optimal results.

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