TENS Machine Side Effects: Is TENS Therapy Safe? [Updated for 2021]

TENS Machine Side Effects: Is TENS Therapy Safe? [Updated for 2021]

 Updated January 2021



TENS therapy has been used by doctors and medical professionals in their private practice and clinics for decades. As a technology to help temporarily relieve pain, TENS machines have now become available for at-home consumers. Read more about what are TENS units for, how are they used, any side effects you should know about and who should not be using a TENS unit. 



TENS Machine Side Effects

Studies have shown that TENS therapy is a safe and effective way to temporarily relieve sore and achy muscles as well as symptomatic relief of chronic, intractable pain and pain associated with arthritis.



TENS units are also easy to use and the side effects are minor. Misusing a TENS device can result in the following symptoms:

- Skin irritation

- Temporary muscle twitching

- Temporary tingling sensation

How to Avoid Side Effects

You should talk to your doctor before using a TENS machine to temporarily treat your pain. When using your machine, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure unpleasant sensations do not occur. A few of these steps include:

1. Clean your skin before applying the pads

2. Do not start the TENS Machine on the highest intensity


3. Periodically change the position of the pads

4. Do not use the TENS machine for more than one hour at a time

5. Do not use the machine if you are pregnant

6. Do not sleep with your TENS machine on without a timer set

7. Do not use the TENS machine near water

8. Do not use the machine while driving


Where to Avoid Placing TENS Pads

Side effects do not often occur when using a TENS device unless it is being misused. There are a number of places on the body where a TENS machine should not be placed. The following areas should be avoided when placing TENS pads on your body for use:

- Eyes
- Head
- Spinal column
- Over tumors
- Open wounds (directly over; can be used around the wound)
- Front of the neck
- On the chest
- Over a pacemaker or ICD device
- Any private areas



TENS Machines Should Temporarily Relieve Pain, Not Cause It.

Always consult with your doctor if you have preexisting medical conditions or are concerned about using a TENS machine in your home. It is important that a TENS machine is not used in certain areas (mentioned above), overused, or used during inappropriate times (driving, showering, etc.).



Schuster, S. “Side Effects of Overusing a TENS Machine.” Live Strong.