Updated February 2021
What is a TENS Machine?
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a form of therapy that uses gentle electrical current to temporarily relieve pain. TENS machines are safe and have been used by doctors and physical therapists for decades.
Modern TENS machines can be as small as a smartphone and powered by batteries. The device is connected to wires that conduct an electrical current through self-adhesive pads. These pads are placed on an area of pain, and a circuit of electrical impulses travel along the nerve fibres. TENS machines have different intensities, which means you can adjust the flow of the electrical current. TENS is primarily used for the symptomatic relief and management of chronic, intractable pain and pain from arthritis.
How Do TENS Machines Work?
TENS units use gentle electrical current to stimulate the muscles and nerves to provide temporary relief of sore and achy muscles as well as symptomatic relief and management of chronic, intractable pain and pain associated with arthritis. In fact, the American College of Physicians and American Academy of Family Physicians now suggest clinicians treat patients with acute pain from non-low back, musculoskeletal injuries with TENS therapy.
TENS machines work by stimulating the nerve and muscle to contract and relax. The contracting and relaxing of the muscle temporarily increases local circulation, improves the performance of the muscle to temporarily relieve your pain.
What Conditions are TENS Machines Used For?
Health professionals and pain sufferers use TENS machines to temporarily relieve pain stemming from sore and achy muscles to symptomatic relief of chronic, intractable pain and arthritic pain. TENS therapy can effectively be used to temporarily relieve pain associated with the following:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Joint pain
- Back pain
- Knee pain
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Foot and ankle pain
What does TENS Therapy Feel Like?
The current produces a massaging sensation that reduces the feeling of pain. As you turn up the intensity of the device you will feel the strength of the current contract and relax your muscle. The device starts stimulating the muscle and nerves once you turn it on. Watch the video below that captured first-time TENS users reacting to the stimulation in slow-motion.
Do TENS Machines Really Work?
An important question to ask before buying your first TENS machine is, do they work for pain relief? Studies say yes. Researchers have found that TENS machines are capable of temporarily relieving pain and increasing local circulation.
As mentioned earlier, the American College of Physicians and American Academy of Family Physicians now suggest the use of TENS for patients with acute pain from non-low musculoskeletal injuries.
Lastly, TENS units are required to be submitted to regulatory bodies like FDA and Health Canada prior to being available for customers to use them.
There are many studies showing TENS units are effective in the symptomatic relief of chronic, intractable pain and pain associated with arthritis. They are also cleared to temporarily increase local blood circulation and improved muscle performance.
TENS Machine Side Effects
Are there TENS machine side effects? TENS machines should not create unpleasant side effects. If you experience side effects after using a TENS machine, contact your doctor to discuss the effects. There has been some evidence that suggests overusing a TENS machine can result in minor side effects. If you use a TENS machine for many hours at a time you could experience:
- Muscle soreness
- Tingling sensation
- Skin irritation under the pads
What Do I Look For in a TENS Device?
If you’re wondering how to find the best TENS machine, consider the following variables:
1. TENS setting
2. EMS setting
3. Number of adhesive pads
4. Mode variations
5. The number of intensity levels
6. Power source
7. Price of unit
8. Ratings and reviews
Choose the Right TENS Machine for You!
The TENS machine for you is the one that best suits your needs. Do your research and find out how to choose a TENS machine and most importantly, how to choose the TENS device that can best help you.
Learn more about TENS on the DR-HO'S Blog!
How to Choose a TENS Machine
Do TENS Units Really Work?
How Do TENS Machines Work?
TENS Machine Side Effects: Is TENS Therapy Safe?
How Long is it Safe to Use TENS For?
How to Use TENS to Relieve Sore and Aching Muscles
What Sets DR-HO’S TENS Machines Apart?
DR-HO’S Pad Placement Guide for Chronic Pain
Can TENS Machines Help With Muscle Recovery Post Workout?