Since their invention in 1971, TENS machines have grown in popularity as a method of relieving pain. They can even be used to relieve chronic pain, a condition which affects as many as one in five Australians aged 45 and over, according to a study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.


The experts at Caremax note that there are many different types of pain that can affect our quality of life, including “acute pain, chronic pain, labour pain, neuropathic pain, and nociceptive pain”. Fortunately, TENS machines can offer some relief for many of these ailments. 


Have you experienced debilitating pain recently? Maybe it has been a fixture in your life for some time, without a clear solution? 


If so, read on to find out more about the benefits of TENS machines and how they can help you. 


What are TENS machines? 

TENS machines are electronic devices with small pads that can be attached directly to your skin. They work on localised pain, and are generally considered to be most effective when the pads are positioned on either side of the pain point. This way, the electrodes can provide more complete coverage for the pain signals. 


What is the difference between TENS and EMS? 

TENS machines are made with the singular goal of relieving pain, whereas EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation) machines can be used in addition to an exercise regime to strengthen the muscles. Owing to the focus on muscle stimulation and rehabilitation, some tests have also found EMS machines to be effective in reducing body fat.  


What does a TENS machine do for you? 

TENS machines are designed to relieve pain by delivering electrical impulses that block pain signals from reaching the spinal cord and brain. TENS machines are commonly used to treat menstrual pain and nerve pain, but they can also be used to treat pain from arthritis, headaches, and surgical incisions or wounds. However, it’s important to note that these machines should never be used directly on an open wound. 


How does it feel to use a TENS machine? 

While using a TENS machine, you should expect to experience a tingling sensation at the lowest setting. This sensation will grow more intense as you turn up the dial, which may be necessary for managing more intense pain. However, if pain intensifies with use, you should stop using the TENS machine immediately and consult a health professional. 


How long does TENS pain relief last? 

The long-term effects of TENS pain relief depends on the type of machine you use and how long you use it for. Studies have shown that the relief can last anywhere from five minutes to 18 hours, although most users can expect to experience a window of approximately four hours.  

TENS machines also deliver a cumulative pain relief effect, in that the more sessions you have had with the machine, the longer you can expect the relief to last. 


How often can you use a TENS machine? 

Some healthcare providers recommend a maximum usage period of 30 to 60 minutes per session, and up to four sessions per day, while others say you can use a TENS machine as often as you need to for effective pain relief. 


Can a TENS unit be harmful? 

As a non-invasive method of pain relief, TENS units rarely cause harm. However, usage can be problematic for people with pre-existing health conditions and those who use the wrong settings. The machine’s electrical current can cause skin irritation if it is too intense, or if it is placed over the heart, throat, eyes, brain, or genitals. 


Can you use a TENS machine on your face? 

It is safe to use a TENS machine on most parts of your face, and may be helpful in managing pain that is caused by tension and stress. Some of the safest places to position the TENS machine pads include over your brow and at the bottom of your neck.


When should you not use a TENS machine? 

You should never use a TENS machine on parts of the body where there is known or suspected cancer, especially if you have undiagnosed pain and have had cancer in the past five years. You should also avoid using a TENS machine during certain trimesters of pregnancy, particularly in the first few months, although it can be used during labour under the guidance of a medical professional. 


Can a TENS unit strengthen muscles? 

TENS machines are not designed to strengthen muscles, given the primary focus of reducing pain. EMS machines are a good alternative to TENS for muscle definition. These machines are designed to stimulate muscle groups, causing muscle contractions, enhancing strength, and in some cases, reducing body fat. 


Can a TENS machine reduce belly fat? 

Again, TENS machines are not designed to reduce belly fat as the direct current that breaks up scar tissue and alleviates pain does not affect fat cells in the same way. However, some users have found TENS machines to be an effective treatment for cellulite. 


Do TENS machines have side effects? 

One of the major benefits of using TENS machines is the lack of side effects compared to other pain treatment options. While other medications and pain relief options can cause side effects like constipation, drowsiness, nausea, and digestive problems, TENS machines are relatively trouble-free. 


TENS machines are a great natural alternative to the side effects of other pain relief methods (Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/KltoLK6Mk-g)

Does a TENS machine reduce inflammation? 

TENS machines have proven effective in reducing inflammation, which can contribute significantly to discomfort and pain in the body. The machines’ electric impulses can go beyond the capacity of other treatment options to reach pain receptors deep within muscle fibres. 


Does a TENS machine loosen tight muscles? 

TENS machines are primarily intended to reduce pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain, so although they do not directly relax muscles, this happens naturally once the pain is relieved.  Using TENS machines for muscle pain relief is more effective when done in combination with a stretching regime.  


Can a TENS machine help anxiety and depression? 

Since mental health conditions like anxiety and depression often manifest in physical symptoms, it is entirely possible that stimulating the muscles may provide some relief. TENS machines can help with treating localised distress; for example, if you are experiencing headaches or tightness in your chest, the pads will be most effective when placed near the localised pressure or pain. If you experience general anxiety, placing the TENS machine pads on your wrists may help to create a sense of calm. In any case, studies have found that using a TENS machine helps to distract the mind which will naturally assist with the management of mental health conditions.  


Are you frustrated with the side effects of pain medication and ready to switch to a safe, natural alternative? Click here to find out more about our range of TENS and EMS pain relief units.