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

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Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Unit: Overview

A TENS machine with necessary information

There are different types of pain in adults. Some examples are postoperative pain, neuropathic pain, primary dysmenorrhea, muscle pain, and cancer pain. A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS unit is a treatment option that can manage the symptoms. It is an electronic device that emits mild currents to stimulate the nerves. Subsequently, TENS stops pain messages from getting to the brain and releases endorphins. To activate these mechanisms, people need to place the pads on or around the pain area.

Health professionals typically prescribe pain medicines for relief. However, taking drugs constantly may bring adverse effects. Thus, individuals search for alternative solutions. One of these is undergoing TENS therapy. Generally, physical therapists utilise it in pain clinics or rehabilitation centres for their patients. Nowadays, it is more accessible because people can buy a TENS machine online or in-store. The article will present more about what it is, how it works, and how to operate it.

What is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Unit?

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS unit is a handy electrical device. It typically has sets of electrodes and a handheld controller. The sizes and shapes of the pads and machines vary. People can choose depending on their needs and preferences. TENS delivers low-voltage electrical impulses to various body parts using adhesive electrode patches. The stimulation for pain relief can help different acute pain and chronic pain conditions.

Many TENS units come with adjustable settings, allowing users to control the intensity and frequency of the electric currents. Also, they have pre-set modes for specific pain in adults. For instance, individuals with primary dysmenorrhea can choose a program for menstrual pain relief. This targeted approach offers more effective and focused pain management.

People can undergo TENS therapy under the guidance of professionals, such as a physical therapist. However, they can also administer this method of pain relief themselves at home. TENS devices are user-friendly and easy to operate. Hence, it is convenient for individuals to use them on their own. Nevertheless, practising caution is necessary to avoid safety concerns.

Benefits and Importance

  • Pain Management: TENS can effectively relieve acute and chronic pain by reducing pain signals sent to the brain.
  • Drug-Free: This lessens the risk of dependency and side effects associated with medication.
  • Non-Invasive: The therapy sessions do not involve needles, surgery, or any intrusive procedures. Hence, it has minimal to no severe risks.
  • Cost-Effective: Using TENS can be a cost-effective long-term solution for managing pain. Individuals do not need frequent doctor visits and expensive drugs.
  • Mobility Improvement: A TENS machine can improve muscle strength and range of motion. Thus, users can regain mobility and engage in physical activities.

A woman touching her lower back and shoulder due to pain

How Does a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Unit Work?

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS unit produces low-level electric currents to the nerves through the skin. Consequently, the gates or channels in the spinal cord that allow pain signals to pass through become flooded with electrical pulses. Thus, users experience less pain as the electrical signals block the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

Moreover, TENS therapy stimulates the production of endorphins. These are natural pain-relieving chemicals the body produces. When people apply TENS, it triggers the release. It then binds to the opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This binding action helps to reduce pain sensations and promote a sense of well-being.

In addition, TENS devices can improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and support the healing of damaged tissues. The electrical stimulation can increase blood flow to the affected area. As a result, it can speed up the healing process. Some people also use TENS machines to help with muscle rehabilitation and re-education by promoting muscle contractions.

Treatable Conditions

TENS can help with various chronic and acute pain conditions. These include musculoskeletal pain like back pain, neck pain, and knee pain. Moreover, this method of pain relief can manage the symptoms of arthritis and fibromyalgia. Also, it can be a part of treatment plans for neuropathic pain such as sciatica and diabetic neuropathy.

Additionally, TENS therapy can effectively lessen pain and muscle tension associated with sports injuries and post-surgical recovery. Furthermore, relief during labour is possible with TENS. However, pregnant women must consult their doctors before using TENS to ensure it is safe for them and the baby.

A woman using TENS machines on her lower back and arm

How to Operate a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS Unit

Operating a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS unit is easy. Begin by placing the electrode patches on clean and dry skin. This ensures a good electrical connection between the skin and the pads. Then, attach them to the pain site and turn the machine on. Adjust the settings through the control panel or a mobile app for individuals with wireless TENS devices.

As the TENS therapy begins, people may feel a tingling sensation or a slight warming of the skin. This is completely normal and a sign that the machine is working well. However, they should not feel pain from using TENS. Regularly check for signs of skin irritation and modify the placement of the electrode pads if necessary.

TENS sessions typically last for 20-30 minutes. Avoid going over this recommended duration to prevent discomfort. After TENS therapy, turn the unit off and remove the electrode patches. Make sure to clean and store the device properly for future use. With the correct technique and understanding of proper usage, users can experience pain relief benefits and improved comfort.

Electrode Placement Guide

When using TENS, proper electrode placement is crucial for successful therapy. It is recommended to apply the pads over the area of pain or along the path of the affected nerves. Position them at least one inch apart to prevent overlapping of the electrical current and ensure even distribution of the stimulation.

Before applying the electrode patches, cleaning the skin thoroughly to remove any dirt, oils, or lotions that may interfere with the adherence of the electrodes is vital. Once the skin is clean and dry, carefully place the electrodes on the skin and gently press down to ensure a secure bond.


A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS unit is a non-invasive device that uses mild electrical currents to alleviate pain. By placing electrodes on the skin, it delivers gentle electrical pulses that help block pain messages. Also, TENS enhances the production of natural painkillers in the body. Subsequently, users can rely less on medications for pain management. This form of pain relief can manage medical conditions like arthritis, bursitis, muscle pain, labour pain, and neuropathic pain.

To operate a TENS machine, place the electrode pads on the body part that is experiencing pain. Then, adjust the intensity and frequency of the electrical pulses to a comfortable level. Once set, the device can be worn discreetly under clothing while going about daily activities. Regular use of the TENS unit can lead to long-term pain relief for many individuals. This makes it a valuable tool for individuals seeking a natural and non-medication approach to reducing pain.

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