Period Pain: Tens & Pain Relief Treatments

By Med-Fit UK Content Team  .  Last Updated Wednesday, 10th February 2021

What Relieves Period Pain?

Treatments for period pain traditionally involve over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and other possible pain killers. These pills can sometimes have side effects such as ulcers and other possible effects like allergic reactions. This is a possible reason why Tens Machines are becoming more popular amongst women.

Primary Dysmenorrhea is the common form of menstrual cramps (period cramps). It is caused by a specific substance called prostaglandin, which is made by cells in the inner lining of the uterus. Too much prostaglandin causes a much more painful menstruation – more of this causes nausea, headaches and vomiting.

Secondary Dysmenorrhea is a little less common, compared to the one above. It usually occurs after a woman has already had usual menstrual cycles for a while. The way secondary Dysmenorrhea is caused is by an abnormality or infection of the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes. The general pain, although incredibly similar to menstrual cramps, lasts a little long and can even occur at other stages throughout the menstrual cycle.

How does Tens help with period pain?

Tens Machine devices are the ideal treatment for painful menstruation, especially if you would rather pass on the pain killers. The way the machines work is by sending a soothing pulse / electrical current via the pads through the skin and along the nerve fibres.

The Tens Device begins to suppress the pain signals, and the body begins to produce higher levels of its very own natural pain killing chemical – endorphins and enkephalins. The soothing pulses help with Period cramp relief and period pain relief.  

High Frequency Tens and Primary Dysmenorrhea

A recent study performed a randomized clinical trial of 32 women with primary dysmenorrhea. The subjects were treated with:

  • Conventional Tens Machines for two cycles
  • Placebo Tens Machines for one cycle, or ibuprofen 400 mg four times a day for one cycle.

As a form of rescue medication, Ibuprofen 400 mg was used to relieve pain. The investigators and subjects were blinded to whether “real” or sham Tens devices were used throughout the entire investigation/trial.

Results showed that Tens Machines alone provided good to excellent subjective period pain relief in 42.4% of patients compared with 3.2% in the placebo Tens units, and the “real” TENS group also had significantly reduced clot formation, diarrhoea, menstrual flow, and fatigue compared to those who used the placebo Tens units.

With Tens Machine therapy, 1/3 of the subjects did not require any sort of supplemental pain medication throughout the investigation. In those that did require backup (the rescue dose of ibuprofen) - the doses needed were significantly lower than those in placebo TENS cycles or cycles treated with ibuprofen alone.