Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is an inexpensive nonpharmacological intervention used in the treatment of acute and chronic pain conditions. These small battery-powered devices deliver alternating current via cutaneous electrodes positioned near the painful area. 

  • Transcutaneous – means through the skin.
  • Electrical – TENS machines deliver small electrical pulses to the body via electrodes placed on the skin. TENS machines are thought to affect the way pain signals are sent to the brain.
  • Nerve – pain signals reach the brain via nerves and the spinal cord.
  • Stimulation – if pain signals can be blocked by the tiny electrical shocks from the TENS machine then the brain will receive fewer signals from the source of the pain.

Conditions treated by TENS MACHINE

TENS machines are most used for people with musculoskeletal pain, such as

  • Osteoarthritis pain
  • Low back pain
  • Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN)
  • Fibromyalgia (FM): It has suggested that high-frequency TENS as an adjuvant therapy is effective in relieving pain, anxiety, fatigue, stiffness, and in improving ability to work of patients with fibromyalgia.
  • They are also often used for pain relief in the early stages of labor
  • Other less common uses include migraine headaches, period pains, sports injuries and sometimes (quite rarely) non-painful conditions such as tiredness, insomnia or dementia.


Instructions for using a TENS machine

TENS machines can be used alone for pain relief or be combined with other physiotherapy treatments. The use of a TENS machine might allow reduction of the number of painkiller medicines you take. Although you might need to try a few settings on your TENS machine before finding the best one for you, there are no real side-effects from using a TENS machine. A TENS machine might be worth a trial, particularly if conventional pain relief methods have been tried and exhausted.

There are various types and brands of machine. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions supplied with your machine.

Some general points:

  • TENS machines are designed so that you can move around with them working. You can tuck the machine into a pocket or clip it on to a belt.
  • Before placing the electrode pads on the skin make sure the machine is switched off.
  • Test the machine by holding the pads between the fingers and then carefully turn it on. You should feel a tingling sensation.
  • Make sure the skin where the pads are applied is clean and dry and there are no cuts, grazes or areas of skin irritation.

While using a TENS machine, you’ll experience a non-painful tingling or buzzing sensation, and this can help to block or suppress pain messages. Two electrode pads are usually positioned either side of the area of most intense pain. This is done so that the TENS sensation covers the painful area. Four electrode pads can be used to treat a larger area of pain. It is always advisable to get a TENS UNIT from a proper health practitioner regulated clinic. You can always see our physiotherapist and select your TENS UNIT NOW!!  

A TENS machine is personally controlled by the user. Typically, a machine would be used for 15-20 minutes per session, several times per day. Our physiotherapist makes sure to provide a detailed demonstration of the unit on you before you pick up the product.

Side effect of tens

  • Never place the electrodes over the front of your neck, over your eyes, directly on your head or in your mouth. 
  • Don’t use TENS when driving, using machinery, sleeping.
  • If redness, itchiness and soreness persist, then contact your physiotherapist, GP or pharmacist for advice. Some people develop a more serious skin reaction to TENS and may need to temporarily stop using it to let the skin recover. 
  • Do not place electrode pads on broken or damaged skin.
  • Do not use over areas of reduced sensation.
  • Do not use near water such as in the bath or shower.

TENS UNIT ARE COVERED UNDER ALL INSURANCE COMPANIES and a medical prescription is always advised.

Call us at Curezone physiotherapy Mississauga, to get more information about the TENS unit!!