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Pain can be defined as an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience that is caused due to either actual or potential tissue damage. Physical pain is usually caused because of an injury or illness. It can extremely troublesome, and can become worse if not properly treated.

Pain occurs for a simple reason- to protect you. It’s the way of your brain trying to tell you to stop doing something. It's a signal to stay away from actions that are harmful and cause illness or injury to your body.

We all hate any kind of pain that can’t be relieved. Even if it’s bearable for a shorter period of time, as it develops, it gets very difficult to tolerate.

Types of Pain


  • Acute Pain: It is sudden and lasts for a short- term.

  • Chronic Pain: It is usually age-old and lasts for the long term.

  • Breakthrough Pain: Often occurs in between regular and scheduled painkillers.

  • Bone Pain: Occurs when cancer affects a bone.

  • Soft Tissue Pain: Occurs when organs or muscles or tissues are damaged or inflamed.

  • Nerve Pain: Occurs in case of nerve damage.

  • Referred Pain: The kind of a pain in one part of the body that is felt in another.

  • Total Pain: Includes emotional, social and spiritual factors that affect a person’s pain experience.

Any pain caused by an external injury takes its own time to heal depending on the severity of the hurt. On the other hand, internal injuries last about 2-3 days. Internal organs have fewer nerve endings than muscles, hence lesser pain receptors.

Such internal pain takes care of itself, but if the pain remains for a longer period, you should consult a doctor or consume a painkiller to relieve the pain. Alternatively, if the pain does not go away, you can resort to Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Machine.

A TENS machine is a portable, pocket-sized, battery-powered device. Using mild, safe electrical signals, it helps to control pain. This machine delivers the electrical signals to the body through a connection of lead wire and self- adhesive conductive electrode. TENS has been used for years as physical therapy modality for years to help control pain.

What is a TENS Machine?

TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is the use of electrical impulses delivered by a TENS unit via electrodes placed on the skin in order to create altercations in pain perception. It has proved to be an effective device in the field of medicine. However, for symptomatic pain relief like joint pain and muscle pain, an ‘at-home TENS’ unit is available, and it is easy to use too.

What is TENS used for?

TENS is used by people to treat a variety of painful conditions. A few problems that TENS help to deal with are:

  • Arthritis

  • Neck pain

  • Period pain

  • Pelvic pain caused by endometriosis

  • Knee pain

  • Back pain

  • Sciatica

  • Osteoporosis

  • Tennis elbow and other sports injuries

  • Neuropathic pain

  • Cancer pain

  • Sometimes, as a method of pain relief during labour

TENS is considered to be a passive modality therapy. One does nothing while the TENS is working. But how do TENS work? Does it really help to control or reduce pain?

How Do TENS work?

There are two theories that describe how TENS helps to modulate pain in your body: The Gate theory and the Opiate theory.

  • The Gate Theory: Pain signals travel along specific nerves from your body to your brain. Only after your brain processes hurt and pain, you can feel it. Now with a TENS machine, your spinal cord acts like a gate-like mechanism that controls and prioritizes which pain messages reach the brain. Thus, by only sending one pain signal at a time, TENS helps to eliminate or reduce pain.

  • Opiate Theory: Another theory states that chemicals are released into the body while using a TENS machine that helps you feel good. Much like ‘endorphins’, the chemicals that give you good feelings released during physical activity, TENS uses such chemicals to give a feeling of reduced and controlled pain and promotes a feeling of well-being.

TENS is thought to disrupt the pain cycle by delivering a non-painful sensation to the skin around the pain site. In essence, TENS modulates the way we process pain sensations and closes the pain gate.

How is TENS Applied to the Body?

A TENS machine is a small, battery-operated device that has a lead connected to sticky pads (adhesive) called electrodes. The pads are attached directly on to the skin. Typically, these electrode pads are placed on or around the area of pain. However, they must never be placed on:

  • The front or the side of the neck

  • Anywhere on the face

  • The chest and upper back at the same time

  • Over an area of broken skin

  • Over varicose veins

It is best to ask your physical therapist for instructions. After the pads are properly attached, the machine should be switched on. During the process, small electrical impulses Many are delivered to the affected areas of the body, which produce a tingling sensation.

  • Caution: Ensure that the machine is switched off before you attach the pads to your skin, and make sure that the pads are at least 2.5cm (1 inch) apart.

These electrical impulses help in reducing the pain signals passing through the spinal cord to the brain, which is supposed to relieve pain and relax muscles. TENS machines usually have an adjustment meter to set the intensity and the frequency of the electrical current. High-frequency TENS is thought to be best for blocking pain signals, while low- frequency to stimulate the release of endorphins.

When to Avoid TENS?

  • Undiagnosed pain or pain without any reason

  • Pregnancy

  • Heart disease

  • Pacemakers

  • Epilepsy

Seek advice from your doctor to understand how long you need to used TENS. Before proceeding, carefully read instructions and recommendations.

Is TENS effective?

Many study have been published about the use of TENS for a specific diagnosis. Most of these indicated positive pain relief. In a research study conducted by Johnson M. Martinson, he said in his brief abstract, “The overall results showed a significant decrease in pain with ENS therapy using random-effects model (p<0.0005). These results imply that TENS is an effective treatment modality for chronic musculoskeletal pain.”

However, just because TENS is effective, does not imply that it is the right treatment for all types of pain and all people.

Understand if or not TENS is Right for You

For most people, TENS is a safe treatment with no side effects. Yet, one shouldn’t discount the possibility of potential side effects. It is possible to be allergic to the electrode pads which results in reddening and irritation on the skin. In such a case, however, there are special pads.

available and one should only go to treatment with them. On the other hand, some people really like TENS and help themselves to manage pain. Due to its effectiveness, TENS has gained huge popularity as a great source of pain relief.


It is important to remember that physical exercise/ PT is necessary besides the usage of TENS. As most evidence indicates, one must be actively involved in their care, and exercise is the main tool to help treat most of the pain causing conditions.

If you’re new to TENS, take thing slowly and take time to get used to it, and always take medical guidance before any kind of proceedings.

For any queries or information regarding TENS, feel free to call @ 0800 121 4626 or email at sales@thetenscompany.co.uk, and there will always be quick help.

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