What is a TENS machine?
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine uses an electric current to stimulate nerves for therapeutic purposes.
Small electrical impulses are then delivered to the part of the body where the pads have been placed, where they carry out two main functions:
The blocking/interruption or reduction of pain signals travelling to the spinal cord and brain to reduce or alleviate muscle spasms
The stimulation of the production of endorphins (the body’s natural analgesic)
How effective is a TENS machine?
TENS machines commonly play a role in the reduction of muscle spasms and pain in a wide range of conditions and circumstances, including:
Sports related injuries and accidents
What does TENS stand for?
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.
TENS machines are thought to work in two ways to help with pain relief:
On a high pulse rate of 90-130 Hz (the normal method of use), the electrical impulses generated by the TENS machine interfere with and block pain messages sent to the brain.
Based on the gate control theory of pain. This proposes that there is a gate mechanism in the brain and spinal cord nerves (the central nervous system).
When the gate is open, pain messages get through to the brain and we feel pain. When the gate is closed, these pain messages are blocked, and we do not feel pain.
TENS machines are thought to stimulate certain non-pain-carrying nerves and close the gate. In effect, the brain is busy dealing with the messages it receives quickly from the TENS machine, rather than the slower (more painful) pain signals that the body is receiving from elsewhere. It explains why, if you injure yourself, rubbing that area can temporarily reduce the pain.
When the machine is set on a low pulse rate (2-5 Hz) it stimulates the body to make its own pain-easing chemicals called endorphins. These act a bit like morphine to block pain signals
Cautions when using a TENS machine
Do not :
Place electrode pads on broken or damaged skin.
Place electrode pads over the front or side of the neck, close to eyes or in the mouth.
Over areas of reduced sensation.
Near water such as in the bath or shower.
Use when driving or operating machinery.
Can TENS machines be used by everybody?
TENS machines tend mainly to be used to help reduce pain from problems in muscles, joints and nerves (so-called musculoskeletal pain).
They may work better for these problems than for tummy (abdominal), chest or head pains. Unlike a lot of medication there are virtually no side-effects when using a TENS machine.
However, people with the following must not use a TENS machine:
When the cause of the pain is not known or is not diagnosed.
Pregnancy (unless specifically medically advised – or in labour).
Epilepsy or certain types of heart disease.
At Dears Pharmacy our pharmacists are here to support and provide advice. We stock a range of TENS machines including:
Wireless TENS Pain Reliever
Kinetik’s Wireless TENS Pain Reliever is a quick and easy way of delivering effective pain relief on the go. The small and portable single TENS pad has the power built into the pad meaning no messy leads or complicated programme to set. Simply take out the case, apply to the affected area, turn on and go.
Convenient & Portable
Easy to use
Kinetik Wellbeing Period Pain TENS Machine
The Kinetik Wellbeing Period Pain reliever has been designed to help with menstrual pain. The use of TENS technology offers effective pain relief alongside medication if needed. The reliever is easy to use and most of all, discreet.
Safe and easy to use
Very small and discreet, lightweight and portable
Uses TENS technology to help relieve period pain
Complete with pad, wire and batteries
Can be used alongside pain medication
Call in to your local Dears Pharmacy for support and advice in our locations in Edinburgh & Fife.