On this page

TENS machine

TENS machine pads
On this page

What is a TENS machine?

A TENS machine is a device that uses a mild electrical current to relieve pain. The attached pads stick directly onto your skin, emitting small electrical pulses to the part of your body you have stuck them to. These pads can be stuck to parts of your body, whether you're experiencing back or period pain.

You may feel a slight tingling sensation when these currents are emitted. These impulses help to reduce pain by sending signals to your spinal cord and brain through your nerves.

How do TENS Machines work?

The signals overtake any other messages that are being sent to your brain at that time, including pain signals, this means that the tingling sensation from the TENS machine has priority above any pain messages. This allows your muscles to relax and endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, may be released as well.

You might find that the sensation of the electrical impulse alleviates your pain or simply takes your mind of the pain for a while. Each machine includes adjustable settings so you can choose the right program for you and the pain you're experiencing.

What types of pain can a TENS machine be used for?

TENS machines can be used for a variety of conditions that cause muscular or joint pain as well as muscle spasms:

Who shouldn't use a TENS machine?

For many people using a TENS machine as a pain relief treatment is perfectly safe, however there are some instances where you should consult with your healthcare practitioner before using a TENS device.

Please don't use a TENS machine:

  • If you're pregnant, in labour, or if you think you may be pregnant
  • If you have a pacemaker or other implanted medical device or have heart rhythm problems
  • If you have an electrical or metal implant in your body
  • Without supervision for children under 16 years of age
  • If you have cancer, diabetes or epilepsy please seek medical advice before using this product

How to use your TENS machine safely

TENS machine is a device that uses Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS) to help relieve and reduce pain. These medical devices are powered by batteries and the design features attached leads with sticky pads.

Because it’s an electrical device you really need to make sure you use it correctly. All of the information you need will be in the user manual included with your device. Make sure you put the pads in the right place, and bear in mind that you shouldn't position the pads on:

  • The front or sides of your neck
  • Your mouth, temples or eyes
  • Your chest or upper back at the same time
  • Numb areas
  • Varicose veins, irritated or broken skin

Are there any side effects with TENS?

Most people don’t experience any side effects, it's a safe pain treatment. Occasionally some people are allergic to the pads.

What if I've got sensitive skin? 

Don’t worry - there are pads available that have been specifically designed for those with sensitive skin. Don’t put any pads on irritated, infected or broken skin as this can do more damage.

What type of TENS machine do I need?

Choosing the right TENS pain reliever will depend upon a number of factors, such as the type of pain you're experiencing, how active you are or how long you intend to use your machine.

Do you have multiple pain points?

If you experience pain in multiple places at once, or numerous points along your back the dual channel TENS machine is ideal, as it features four adhesive gel pads and 25 power intensities.

For those who need a smaller device with less pad points the original TENS digital pain reliever can help ease aches and pains, as well as offering a lightweight design.

Do you have specific aches and pains? 

You might be more interested in a wireless machine complete with wireless pads and a remote, this will be easier to control if the pads are in hard to reach places.This design may also help you to forget that the TENS machine is attached to you. You can place they pads on your skin, choose your intensity program and then go about your day without any wires getting in your way.

Do you want something you can take on holiday?

You might prefer a disposable TENS to relieve your pain, that can be used for a maximum on 7 days, making it ideal if you're going on holiday and don’t want to take your machine with you. This design also features touch control buttons and larger pads that can easily cover large areas of skin such as your hips or back.

Finding a TENS machine that works for you can help to ease your pain, and improve your quality of life, however your GP will be able to offer advice about whether this form of treatment is suitable for you and your condition.

Can I use a TENS machine if I am taking medication?

Yes, TENS devices are safe to use with medication. If you have an existing heart problem, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy make sure to speak to your doctor before using a TENS machine.

Online Doctor VideoGP

How many times a day can you use TENS?

You can use the pain reliever for at least 30 minutes a day. Make sure to explore the programmable settings on your device and follow the instructions. If you need to use it for longer please seek medical advice.

When shouldn’t I use a TENS unit?

Make sure you don't use the device while driving, operating machinery or when you bathe or shower.

Can you clean TENS unit pads?

Yes, you can easily clean the pads with a damp wash cloth. Try not to get the pads too wet as this could damage the machine. Don't use tissue paper though as this will leave bits on the pads.

References

www.nhs.uk/conditions/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens
www.versusarthritis.org/
www.nbt.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/TENS_NBT002573.pdf
www.patient.info/health/painkillers/tens-machines