Information about TENS

By Monica van de Weerd

Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has been described for many years as an alternative to traditional analgesic pain relievers. TENS machines are very well known in the medical industry.  Hospitals, Pain Relief specialists, Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, and many other Health professionals use them as an alternative to many other forms of pain relief. In clinical trials TENS machines have been shown to be an effective method for the treatment of acute and chronic pain.

Sports Therapists also use them for accelerating injury recovery, improving blood circulation, reducing inflammation, swelling and also for increasing muscle strength.

These devices employ the latest in TENS and EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) technology, this is a treatment that uses electrical currents to relieve pain whilst providing other therapeutic benefits.

A gentle electrical current passes through electrodes which are attached to the skin near the site of the pain or discomfort. The electrical stimulation pulses through the skin in the same way the central nervous system does. This stimulation gets to the brain first, blocking the pain receptors.

Two respected scientists discovered a theory, called the 'Gate Theory'. This theory states that when you feel a sensation other than pain, the mild electrical impulses actually close the gate and do not let pain impulses to pass through to the brain through the spinal column. The electrical impulses speed their way across the skin and onto the central nervous system much faster than pain. By getting there first, the electrical information 'closes the gate' to pain, blocking its passage and pain message to the brain.

Once the pain eases, muscles that are in spasm begin to relax. Once the muscles relax, the device increases blood to the soft tissue damage of the painful area and stimulates the deep healing process. This in addition helps your body release endorphins. These are natural chemicals formed within the body that behave like a strong drug reducing the perception of pain for up to eight hours at a time.

Endorphin Release.  TENS machines are world renowned for the release of endorphins.  It’s a natural pain killer, stimulating the release of endogenous opioids which are pain-relieving chemicals naturally released by the body in response to pain stimuli. Opioids are a naturally occurring hormone in the body. They are released in response to an injury or physical stress to reduce your pain and promote a feeling of wellbeing. Much like Morphine, and related medications, your opioids have a similar chemical structure, which explains their strong painkilling effects. The opioids then inhibit the transmission of pain signals in the substantia gelatinosa part of the spinal cord - what is often referred to as the spinal root part of the nerve.

The TENS machine produces a 'twitch' in the muscles underneath the electrodes. This muscle 'twitch' helps to release the opioids and also helps the pain 'switches' in the brain to be activated through muscular and reflex activity.

A great example of endorphin release is the natural 'high' that runners and other athletes experience after 30 minutes of sustained exercise. Much like exercise, the endorphin release stimulated by the TENS may take up to 30 minutes or more to take a noticeable effect. The "feel good" effect may last several hours before endorphin levels in the body need to be increased again. These electrical pulses stimulate muscles, increase blood flow, restore damaged neural pathways and provide therapeutic benefits ranging in relief from back pain, neck and shoulder pain, joint pain, increase circulation, relaxation to many other general complaints and ailments.

Benefits of a TENS machine

NO Drugs!!!!

No side effects - TENS machines have no side effects and are perfectly safe to use at home independently or as part of any other therapy you may be using 

Non Invasive - TENS machines are easy to use and do not require any special training. They are a noninvasive and manageable way to relieve pain and can be used with total safety alongside any drugs you may be taking.

Portable - TENS machines are portable, handheld devices. You can use them anywhere in almost any situation whether at home or travelling. Being small and lightweight they can be stored away easily when not in use.

Self Management - people that suffer from chronic pain cannot rely on medication alone. Continuous use of pain medication can result in serious side effects and sometimes dependence. TENS machines do not have any side effects or addictive properties. They encourage patients to self management of their symptoms and avoid heavy reliance on drugs.

Cost Effective - it is much more cost effective to use TENS machines for pain relief and treatment than expensive prescription medications or substituting for visits to health professionals.

Our devices are the latest state of the art TENS machines. What makes these machines different to many other TENS machines is the portability, functionality and reliability.  We also make it more accessible to the wider community. There was a time when you could only purchase a TENS machine from your Physiotherapist or Health professional 


Tips and Tricks for Effective Pain Relief: Original and practical ideas to help you get the most benefit out of your TENS Unit  by Dr Gordon Gadsby PhD BA(Hons.) RGN RMN DipN(Lond) MSBM DHP DHS.

The following information is from a FREE info sheet based on more than 27 years of clinical practice in electroanalgesia by the author Dr Gordon Gadsby and a trawl of evidence based literature.

from several electronic databases. We hope you will find this information beneficial to you  please feel free to print this page out for your own reference purposes.

  • If you are satisfied with the pain relief you are getting from your TENS unit - then you are using it correctly - so keep using it as suggested.
  • If you are having difficulty getting the pain relief you are looking for from your TENS unit - then you are almost certainly not using it correctly - the following tips should help you to maximize the benefits.
  • Carefully re-read again the user manual which came with your TENS unit. This manual contains most of the information you need for success.
  • Most TENS users get almost instant pain relief after following the manual instructions. Are you following all the instructions as suggested? If so and you are still having a poor response then try the following suggestions - one at a time.
  • Some clients find that it takes two or more treatments a day for several days to achieve the pain relief they are looking for. Even professionals do not always get instant pain relief for their clients.
  • So do not abandon your TENS treatment after just a few treatments but keep using it for two or more weeks as the effects tend to be cumulative i.e. each treatment builds upon the last one.
  • Make sure the electrodes are firmly in place at all times.
  • Try moving them to other positions e.g. over the painful area or surrounding the painful area or placed on the opposite side of the body or limb to improve the response.
  • If you are treating your back pain try placing one electrode over the most painful area and the other electrodes on the opposite side of the spine equidistant from the midline. Try placing the electrodes at either side of the spinal midline with just 1 inch in between them at the level of the pain.
  • Try gently exercising of the painful part while you are using your TENS unit and then applying a cold pack (from the fridge NOT out of the Freezer) to the area for 10 minutes at the end of the treatment.
  • The most common cause of failure to achieve pain relief from your TENS unit is too few treatments, as mentioned above, so make sure you have given the unit a really good trial and remember, the longer you have had your pain the longer it may take to reduce it and the more treatments it may need.
  • DON'T stop taking your usual medications when you begin your TENS treatment, take them as usual, but discuss reducing the dosage with your medical practitioner as your pain decreases.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment with the different pulse settings to find the treatment which gives you the best result - but give each change of pulse rate several days to work before changing to another one.
  • Enthusiastic tea or coffee drinking may reduce the analgesic effect of TENS - try cutting your intake of tea or coffee down by half and drink water or fruit juices instead.
  • If your pain becomes worse, either during or after the treatment, then it is usually due to applying the incorrect pulse rate for your problem - try a different one and if this does not help try moving the electrodes to another position and repeat until you get the pain relief you are looking for.
  • Remember: TENS treatment usually works for most people but some of us have to give it a chance to work by ensuring that we give it an adequate trial i.e. treatments once or twice daily or more for at least 2-3 weeks and adjusting the pulse rate and/or electrode placements are usually necessary to gain the best effect.

           General Limitations of Liability  

This information, IS PROVIDED "AS IS" BY DR GORDON GADSBY, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EITHER EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, Any documents and information provided by or from this Website should be used in conjunction with the advice and instructions supplied by your usual medical or physical therapy provider. We make no representations or warranties, express or implied, concerning the use of any one of these services or products, free or not, their accuracy, or the results that may be obtained from them, and make no express or implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. We shall not be liable for any damages or losses of any type arising from such use or content, and reserve the right to remove or modify any information contained here.


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