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TENS Machine And Pain Relief

TENS Machine And Pain Relief
TENS Machine And Pain Relief

What Is A TENS Machine?

TENS is an acronym which stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (transcutaneous simply meaning across the skin). A standard portable TENS machine is typically is a small machine around about the size of a pack of cards that has a couple of leads coming of it connected to patches that adhere to the skin and pass the generated electrical pulses to your body.

  • A TENS machine generally operates via a single 9 volt battery gives out little pulses of electrical energy transmitted to your skin via self adhesive pads.
  • Most TENS machines have adjustable settings on the control box so you can alter the frequency and strength of the pulses as the individual desires.

The use of a TENS for pain management in pregnancy and during labour is very common, just as it is in day to day physiotherapy practice. Physiotherapists may choose to administer TENS for pain relief in both acute and chronic pain situations.

How Does A TENS Machine Work For Pain Relief?

Generally accepted theories on how a TENS machine works in providing pain relief are:

  • The electrical pulses given off by the TENS machine prevent pain signals from reaching your brain. This works in a similar way that rubbing you leg after you bump it seems to help with reducing pain.
  • Also TENS pulses stimulate your body to release its own, natural, feel-good substances, called endorphins.

TENS Machines And Physiotherapy

Personally I do not use a TENS machine in the day to day running of my clinic. However this is my own personal preference based on my experience using a TENS in practice and I am certain there are many physiotherapist who feel they use it with great success on a regular basis in their practice.
There is significant research advocating the use of TENS for pain relief in physiotherapy, how I use it a TENS machine is not during a session in the clinic but from time to time on a trial basis for individual patients who are suffering chronic or significant pain and looking for other non pharmaceutical ways to manage their pain. In this situation I sometimes suggest the trail of a TENS machine at home for a period of time.
I would also suggest that there is no doubt many situations during pregnancy, labour and after giving birth that using a TENS machine may be an appropriate modality of analgesia to trail at any of these stages. Considering that a TENS is a safe and relatively cheap option you really have nothing to lose in trialing a TENS machine as a pain management option.
What I feel the TENS machine may do for patients is help them feel that they have more control over their pain and it may help them to feel less anxious, and provide a mild distraction from their pain.

Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance on TENS Machine And Pain Relief should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.

Hayden Latimer is the founder of and principle physiotherapist at Sydney Physio Clinic. Since graduating from Otago University, Dunedin, New Zealand he’s gained wide experience practicing across the globe for over 15 years and is now extremely knowledgeable in helping people reduce discomfort and restore function and mobility.


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