Using A TENS Machine

Using A TENS Machine

How Do You Use A TENS Machine?

  • When using TENS the tingling, or prickling sensation should be strong but comfortable.
  • Accommodation is where your body adapts to the tingling sensation and it becomes less apparent at the same intensity setting. This accommodation to TENS occurs with continuous application. And is combated by simply periodically increasing the intensity as desired, or using the cyclical mode on the unit.
  • Typically you should start with the intensity settings low and increase as time goes on. Or increasing if the pain becomes stronger and more stimulation is required to “block” the pain.
  • Some units are also fitted with a “boost” button. The boost function can work nicely when pressed at the peak of pain waves. Such as pressed at a point of maximum contraction if using during child birth/contractions.

On What Areas Of Your Body Can You Use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation?

  • TENS machines will generally come with instructions. General guidelines are that patches should not be applied over the heart area given the machine is generating electrical pulses. Equally the adhesive pads should not be situated over the throat area. As stimulation can create a muscle contraction and this could interfere with breathing.
  • Other than the areas stated above, typically the application of pads are at the site of pain.
  • Be aware that certain areas of skin may be extra sensitive to the prickling sensation. For example the sides of your trunk, inner thighs and the palms of your hands. If using TENS in these, or similar areas I would normally recommend using relatively low intensity settings.

Advantages Of A TENS Machine As A Pain Relief Option

  • The units are portable and the treatment is non-invasive and safe.
  • It is very easy to use and you can use it for as long or often as you want.
  • You can wear it on the move. By simply placing the machine into your pocket, or clipping it onto your belt as you move about.
  • TENS machines are relatively cheap. There are many different units available for hire, or purchase from hospitals, physio clinics or purchasing online. Typically an entry level TENS machine that “does the job” can be purchased for around $100.

Disadvantages Of A TENS Machine?

  • TENS in my opinion does not provide strong pain relief. Typically works more as a distraction than completely abolishing discomfort.
  • Some people do not tolerate the sensation. And others can not adjust the intensity high enough to provide any significant pain relief before finding the stimulation itself uncomfortable.
  • Some individuals develop an allergy to the adhesive in the pads. Or allergy to the tapes used to hold non-adhesive pads in place.
  • You can not use TENS underwater. So obviously if someone was planning on using this form of pain relief during labour. they could not use TENS when submerged during a water birth.

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 Using A TENS Machine should consult his or her general practitioner, physiotherapist or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.