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

Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulator Machines: Is It Effective at Relieving Pain?

iTENS small wing kit with descriptive features

Transcutaneous nerve stimulator machines, commonly known as TENS machines, are effective in relieving pain. These machines work by blocking the pain signals sent to the brain. They can also stimulate the release of endorphins, which are the natural painkillers of the body. By placing electrodes on the skin near the source of pain, the TENS machine delivers gentle electrical pulses that help to alleviate discomfort. Many individuals have reported positive results and found relief from various types of pain.

Methods for pain management may include oral medications, physical exercise, and cold therapy. Most people take analgesics because they are accessible and affordable. However, oral painkillers can potentially cause adverse side effects with prolonged use. Alternatively, using an electric stimulation device, such as a TENS machine, is a popular pain management method that is all-natural and toxic-free. This article will provide more information about TENS machines, including their mechanism of action and proper usage.

What are Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulator Machines?

Transcutaneous nerve stimulator machines are portable electronic devices that can provide pain relief. They typically consist of a control unit and sets of electrodes. The adhesive electrode pads send electrical currents to stimulate the nearby sensory nerves to reduce pain. Moreover, there are two types of TENS devices that individuals can use: standard and wireless.

A standard TENS machine has a handheld push-button remote and wires connecting to the electrode pads. On the other hand, a wireless TENS machine utilises Bluetooth technology to connect to a smartphone app. It is popular among individuals who prefer convenient and on-the-go pain management. Nevertheless, both types deliver adequate electrical stimulation.

The TENS electrodes are interchangeable in different sizes and shapes. This can help fit different areas of the body and deliver appropriate stimulation levels. Additionally, the pads stick firmly to the skin but do not penetrate or leave permanent marks. It is worth noting that TENS is not a cure for pain but only provides temporary relief.

Conditions It Can Help Manage

  • Acute pain condition: a sudden and intense pain that typically lasts for a short period of time. This includes postoperative pain, fractures, broken bones, labour pain, muscle pain, and period pain.
  • Chronic pain condition: it refers to ongoing pain that persists for more than three months, even after the initial injury or illness has healed. These include conditions such as sciatica, fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritis, chronic low-back pain, and arthritis pain.
  • Body aches: it can be a general feeling of soreness or localised pain in specific areas. This includes pain in the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, ankles, hips, thighs, hands, or feet.

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How a Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulator Machine Works

Transcutaneous nerve stimulator machines work by sending electrical impulses through electrode patches that people place on the skin. These impulses produce two general responses from the body, particularly the central nervous system. The first method is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain. During TENS treatment, the pain gate mechanism in the spinal cord closes. Therefore, it inhibits the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

The second method involves the stimulation of endorphin production. The electric devices let the body produce more endorphins, which are hormones that can reduce pain and enhance overall well-being. Endorphins attach to opioid receptors and prevent them from transmitting pain messages. They are also known as natural painkillers as they have similar effects to morphine.

Furthermore, the use of TENS machines has a positive impact on the circulatory system. The electrical pulses or mild vibrations boost blood circulation in the affected area. This helps to reduce inflammation, relax the muscles, and promote faster recovery of damaged tissues and nerve regeneration.


TENS units offer several benefits. Firstly, they are non-invasive, meaning they do not require any needles or surgery. Secondly, they provide personalised pain relief through adjustable settings, such as pulse amplitude, pulse rate, and pulse width. Thirdly, electrical devices are cost-effective. They minimise the need for regular therapy sessions or health professional visits.

Fourthly, TENS machines are drug-free, making them non-addictive and safe for long-term use. Lastly, they are portable. This makes it more convenient for individuals to manage their pain on the go, whether at work, during travel, or while engaging in physical activities.

Step-by-step guide on how to operate the iTENS app

How to Use a Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulator Machine

Before using a transcutaneous nerve stimulator machine, carefully read the instructions. Also, ensure the device has fresh batteries or is fully charged to avoid interruptions. After preparing for the session, place the electrode pads on the skin. Attach them well by pressing down firmly. Once the patches are set, turn the device on.

Start with a low-intensity level and gradually increase it until a comfortable tingling sensation is felt. Adjust the settings to the recommended levels for the specific type of treatment, whether for pain relief or muscle strengthening. Moreover, people can choose from pre-set programs. Their machine may have modes for muscle pain, joint pain, recovery, or relaxation.

During the session, pay attention to any discomfort. If at any point the tingling sensation becomes too intense or uncomfortable, decrease the level immediately. The purpose of TENS therapy is to provide a therapeutic effect, not to cause pain. Use the unit for 20-30 minutes or as advised by professionals. Afterwards, remove the patches and clean the skin to remove any gel or residue left behind.

Safety Precautions

Safety is an important factor when learning how to use a TENS machine. Firstly, consult a medical professional to determine if TENS is a suitable treatment for a particular condition. They can also advise the correct settings to use. Secondly, ensure the skin is clean and dry before putting the electrodes.

Thirdly, it is crucial to avoid sensitive areas like the head, eyes, throat, spine, and near varicose veins. The electrical stimulation in these locations may potentially worsen the condition or lead to complications. Lastly, do not leave the device running for more than one hour.


In conclusion, transcutaneous nerve stimulator machines offer portable pain relief by sending electrical impulses through electrode patches placed on the skin. They work by closing the pain gate mechanism in the spinal cord and stimulating endorphin production, which reduces pain signals. Additionally, they improve circulation, decrease inflammation, and promote tissue recovery. While TENS machines provide temporary relief and are not a cure for pain, they are a convenient tool for managing discomfort and enhancing overall well-being.

Using a TENS machine requires careful attention to safety and proper technique. Before starting, individuals should read the instructions thoroughly and consult a medical professional for guidance. They should ensure the device is adequately charged or has fresh batteries, and the skin is clean and dry before applying electrode pads. Throughout the session, it is essential to monitor for any discomfort and adjust the intensity accordingly. By following these precautions, users can safely experience the potential benefits of TENS therapy.

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