TENS Information

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a non-invasive, drug-free method of pain relief that is used for symptomatic relief and management of chronic intractable pain. Transcutaneous means “across the skin”, and TENS relieves pain by sending tiny electrical impulses to underlying nerve fibres, through electrodes placed on or near the area of pain or pressure point.

Nerve fibres transmit signals – including pain signals – to and from the brain. TENS introduces corrective signals to the nerve fibres to transmit to the brain, which in turn block or reduce the pain you feel. TENS machines operate with a safe 9 volts and are used to assist the treatment of many different types of pain.


Types of TENS Machines


Broadly speaking there are two main types of TENS machines:

  1. TENS only machines: These offer TENS functionality for pain management.
  2. TENS/EMS Combination machines: These offer both TENS and EMS functionality for both pain management and muscle strengthening of injured areas.

Combination TENS/EMS therapy machines, such as our MH800 TENS machine, combine both TENS and EMS in a single unit and give you the versatility of two products in one machine. We recommend these combination TENS/EMS units as they can alternate between stopping pain with TENS and muscle building with EMS, helping to reduce injury pain as well as strengthen and rehabilitate your muscle fibres.


What is TENS Useful For?

TENS can be used to treat many different types of acute and chronic pain. The unpleasant sensory and emotional experience of pain is associated with actual or potential tissue damage, which if left untreated, can cause your body to “guard” an injury and put extra weight on other soft tissues, also making them imbalanced and painful.

TENS has been used to effectively treat many types of pain, including:

  • Ankylosing Spondylosis
  • Bursitis
  • Cancer Pain
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Cervical Spondylosis
  • Fibrositis
  • Myofascial Pain
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Neck Pain
  • Neuropathy
  • Occupational Overuse Injuries
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Peripheral Nerve Injuries
  • Phantom Limb Pain
  • Post Herpetic Neuralgia  
  • Post-Operative Neuralgia
  • Prolapsed Disc
  • Referred Pains
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Scar Tissue Pain
  • Sciatica Shingles
  • Sponylitis
  • Sports Injuries
  • SprainsStress & Insomnia
  • Strains
  • Tendonitis
  • Whiplash Injuries
  • Low Back Pain
  • And many others!

The effectiveness of TENS therapy is completely dependent on specific cases, and while some people have noticed improvements straight away, others may need to persevere for a longer period.


How to Use Your TENS Machine

Always make sure you follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions that come with your TENS machine. But in general, follow these directions for use: 

  1. Make sure the machine is switched off before you place the electrode pads on your skin. Test it by holding the pads between your fingers and then turning the machine on – you should feel a slight tingling sensation coming from the pads.

  2. Use rubbing alcohol to clean the area where you want to apply the pads. Let your skin dry, and make sure there are no cuts, grazes or irritations on the area.

  3. Place the pads on either side of the pain, making sure they are at least 2-3cm apart from each other. Refer to our TENS Pads Placement page for more detailed information. If you intend to move around while you’re using your machine, fix the pads to your skin with tape to keep them in place.

  4. Set the pulse rate to your required setting, or select the recommended program for your pain.

  5. Switch on the machine and slowly turn it up until you feel a tingling sensation. It should feel quite strong, but not uncomfortable. The sensation will drop slightly after a few minutes – this is called accommodation – and when this happens, turn the machine up a little and then leave it at that setting for the rest of your session.
    Don’t turn it up too high, as this can over-stimulate the area and make your pain worse. There should be no muscle contractions at any point while you are using your machine.

  6. At the end of the session, turn the machine off and disconnect the electrodes. Remove the pads and clean your skin with mild soap and water. Do not pull directly on the wires to remove the pads, and if you find any redness or irritation from the pads you should use a different area of skin the next time you use your machine.


Never use your TENS machine or its electrode pads:

    1. - On damaged or broken skin
      - On the front or side of your neck
      - Close to your eyes or mouth
      - On infected areas
      - Over a malignant tumour
      - On a pregnant uterus
      - Across a pacemaker or other indwelling stimulator
      - On areas that are numb or have decreased sensation
      - Near water
      - When driving or operating machinery
      - When sleeping


TENS Machine Side Effects

There are no side effects to using a TENS machine in the correct way, and as directed.

Overusing your TENS machine for extended periods of time can have mild side effects such as muscle twitching and muscle soreness. If this occurs, take a break from using the machine or lower the intensity until you feel a strong tingling sensation without any muscle twitching.  

Prolonged use of your machine can also sometimes lead to skin irritation from the electrode pads. You can help prevent this by thoroughly cleaning your skin before you place the pads, as well as periodically changing the position of the pads if you are using your TENS machine for an extended period of time.


TENS Machines For Pregnancy and Labour


TENS Machines During Pregnancy

TENS machines can be used to safely and effectively relieve back pain and other common types of pain while you are pregnant. Research and clinical trials have found that TENS therapy has no damaging effects on the unborn foetus or its development.

However, TENS should not be used prior to the 37th week of your pregnancy unless medically advised by your doctor or physiotherapist. You should also never place the electrode pads directly on a pregnant uterus.

TENS Machines In Labour

You can safely use TENS in your own home during early labour to help you manage the pain of contractions. The machine won’t restrict your movement and has no harmful effects on either you or your unborn baby at this late stage of your pregnancy.

For the most effective pain relief, you should begin using your TENS machine as early in labour as possible, from the very first contractions. It will typically take your body about an hour to being responding to the electrical impulses, so you should start using it as soon as you’re getting regular contractions. Start at the lowest setting, and turn it up gradually as the contractions get stronger and more painful. You can boost the settings at the peak of the contractions.

Once you are in established labour, TENS will begin to be less effective. It is safe to keep using it for as long as you want, but you will find that the pain relief will be more predominant during the early stages of labour.

Additional Tips:

  • Keep mobile. It will give you more of a feeling of control, and increase the effectiveness of your TENS machine.
  • Try using it in combination with other methods of pain relief such as massages, relaxation and positioning.
  • Replace or reposition the electrode pads every 3 hours, for optimum contact with your skin.
  • If you are using a birthing pool or want to have a bath, do not use your TENS machine in the water.
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