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

What Does TENS Stand For?

A woman suffering from neck pain.

If you went for a check-up for some pain that you are suffering from, you may have heard of TENS therapy. You may wonder and ask what it was and what does TENS stand for. TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It is a treatment method that uses low-voltage currents to pass across the skin (transcutaneous) to stimulate the nerves and relieve your pain.

Some doctors or healthcare providers may recommend a TENS machine to help you ease any discomfort and pain. TENS therapy has been available in the online market and the devices are used in rehabilitation centres and physiotherapy clinics. Additionally, some patients purchase their own units for personal use so they can use them when needed. This article will cover all about what TENS is and how it works, including its benefits, and the proper way to use it.

What Does TENS Stand for in Medical Terms

Before using this device, you must understand what does TENS stand for. Transcutaneous means through or across the skin. Nerve stimulation is the excitement and activation of nerves due to external factors using either invasive or non-invasive methods. Therefore, TENS therapy is a technique for treating long-persistent pain by passing low-voltage currents into the sensory nerves by means of electrodes applied to the skin.

TENS therapy uses a battery-operated device to relieve acute and chronic pain. Electrode pads attached to the skin deliver these currents to stimulate the nerves. During the treatment, the pain impulses are interrupted from the periphery to the central nervous system. In addition to that, it increases the production or release of endorphins and improves the blood supply to the affected area.

This therapy is an alternative to drugs for pain management and can be used for a myriad of conditions. It does not have a long-term effect on the body, as it only stimulates nerves during its use. This can make it a good choice over other methods.

What TENS Can Treat

TENS have been found effective in managing or reducing pain associated with various conditions, including:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Labour pain
  • Shoulder, neck, and back pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Knee, elbow, and hip pain
  • Sore and aching muscles
  • Nerve pain

Furthermore, TENS units may also provide relief from pain related to:

  • Sport injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Arthritis (including osteoarthritis)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sciatica
  • Endometriosis
  • Tendinitis
  • Bursitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Painful diabetic neuropathy
  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Peripheral artery diseases
  • Post-surgery pain (e.g., heart, chest, abdominal, orthopedic, gynecological)
  • Stroke recovery
  • Wounds and incisions

It is important to note that individual responses to TENS may vary.

An iTENS unit displaying its features.

What Does TENS Stand For: Benefits

Aside from knowing what does TENS stand for, you may also want to know some of its benefits. Firstly, TENS therapy is a non-surgical and drug-free method for relieving pain. Using this therapy will reduce you from taking pain medications that can cause adverse or addictive side effects. Thus, TENS is well tolerated and has no major side effects.

Secondly, TENS units are convenient to use as they are small, handy, compact, portable and discreet to use. You can actually carry it with you wherever you go and use it when pain occurs at any time of the day. It is way easier nowadays, as TENS machines are wireless. You can use them while still doing your daily activities and tasks.

Furthermore, TENS retrains your nerves. If you are suffering from nerve damage, this machine can actually help you retrain your nerves. Lastly, you have complete control over your treatment. Depending on the device you choose, there are a range of intensity settings and modes that you can choose from to target your pain.

Side Effects

TENS is non-invasive, so it has no major side effects. There are only some minor effects that may occur. These tend to happen when you use TENS too much. Firstly, you may build up a tolerance to TENS therapy. Consistent use will accustom the body to its effects, diminishing the amount of relief a person feels over time.

Second, you may experience mild skin irritation. If you use the electrode pads too much in the same spot over a short period of time, the skin might turn red or start to hurt. Make sure you take 20 minutes between every session to avoid this.

A woman placing a TENS unit to her partner's back.

What Does TENS Stand For: Guidelines

Once you know what does TENS stand for, you can start to use it in your daily life. Fortunately, they are easy to set up and start using these guidelines. First, identify where the pain is. You will want to place the pads as close to the area with the highest level of pain as possible. The pads cannot touch, and make sure they do not go over any sensitive areas.

When you know where the pads will go, clean the skin there and remove any excess hair. Attach the pads, and then turn the device on. You can select different types of therapy sessions and find the one with the right intensity for you and your pain. Start the therapy session when you are ready.

Once your session is finished, turn off the device and remove the pads. You should always wipe the pads down after use to remove any particles or hair from your skin that may be stuck to them. This keeps them sanitary and helps them stay adhesive longer over time.

Safety Precautions

TENS therapy is incredibly safe. It has minimal impact on the body so is generally not dangerous to use. However, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind just to be sure. Firstly, be careful of pad placement. They should not go on sensitive areas like bones, the spine, or wounds. If those areas hurt, find a spot on the skin nearby to use instead.

Secondly, be mindful of where and when you use TENS. Do not use it around water, such as in the rain. If you have a heart condition, consult a doctor before use.


Learning what does TENS stand for will help you better understand how to use the system. TENS therapy involves the use of low-voltage currents to treat your pain by using a TENS machine. A TENS machine is a small and portable device that delivers these currents to the affected area or nerves through electrode pads. The electrode pads are placed on to your skin to proceed with the therapy. Thus, TENS therapy blocks or changes your perception of pain.

TENS is an effective treatment for managing pain and comes with several benefits such as reducing inflammation, enhancing your mood and more. However, TENS is not safe for everyone to use. Do not use it without getting medical advice first if you have a pacemaker or metal implants in your body. Additionally, seek medical advice if you have heart problems, epilepsy, or an overactive bladder before using TENS.

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