Discover an Alternative Way to Relieve Pain with a TENS Machine
A TENS machine is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation unit that can be used to effectively treat certain types of pain in the body, including back pain, muscle pain, period pain, and neck pain. These units send tiny electrical pulses to flood the nervous system and reduce pain signals sent to the brain and spinal cord, which may lessen pain in some people. Small and portable, TENS machines can be a great alternative to painkillers and carry very few side effects.
Amcal stock a selection of high-quality TENS machines and accessories by Omron and Revitive. Shop TENS devices with 9 or 12 automatic therapy modes and an LCD screen, plus Long-Life pads and Revitive gloves to use with the Revitive unit.
How Do TENS Machines Work?
TENS machines work by sending small electrical impulses to the nervous system through electrodes that are typically connected to pads attached to the skin by adhesives. These little electrical shocks help to reduce pain messages that are sent to the brain and spinal cord which may result in a reduction of pain.
A TENS unit supports the gate control theory of pain which proposes that the brain and spinal cord are a gateway for pain and when it is open, pain signals make their way through to the brain and enable us to feel it. If the gateway is closed, these messages are blocked and we no longer feel pain. TENS machines are believed to stimulate non-pain carrying nerves which can close the gate. While the brain is kept busy with the messages from the TENS machine, the slower and more painful messages coming from elsewhere have less of an impact.
TENS devices can also help to stimulate endorphins which are the body's own natural painkillers.
A TENS unit has automatic controls that allow the user to set their own comfortable level of pain relief. Frequency refers to how many electrical currents are sent to the nervous system per second. High frequency ranges 80-120 cycles and can be useful in treating acute pain, while low frequency ranges from 1-20 cycles and is best for chronic pain.
What TENS Machines Are Used for
A TENS machine may be useful in relieving pain symptoms associated with a wide range of conditions. One of the biggest benefits of using a TENS unit is that you can combine them with your regular medication. In some cases, they may help you to reduce the amount of pain medication you take or replace it altogether. A TENS machine may help with:
- Lower back pain and neck pain
- Joint pain
- Labour pains
- Postoperative pain
- Period pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Spinal cord injuries
- Sports injuries
- Diabetic neuropathy
When is it Best to Use a TENS Machine?
You can use your TENS device whenever you need to reduce your level of pain. For chronic pain, it may be more effective to use the machine for a minimum of 30 minutes while active. Lying down or sitting during a session has been shown to have less effect on some people.
How Long Does the TENS Pain Relief Last?
The duration of pain relief varies for every individual. For some, pain relief may stop as soon as the machine is turned off. Others have reported a reduction in pain for up to 24 hours after they stopped using it.
How to Use the TENS Machines
Our Omron TENS machines come in two different versions with two Long Life pads included in the kit. The Omron HV-F127 features the Relieve Program with 9 automatic therapy modes that you can select with a click of a button. This program is designed to help relieve muscular pain and tension. The Omron HV-F128 features the Relieve Program and Soothe Program for stiffness and numbness and has 12 automatic modes to choose from and an LCD screen.
To use the Omron devices:
- Apply the electrode pads approximately 2.5cm apart over the painful area
- Turn on the unit
- Use the arrows to navigate the menu and customise your treatment. Press set/start to make your choices
- For more detailed instructions, make sure you read the manual that comes with your device.
Where to Put the Electrodes
Electrode placement is important if you are going to get the full benefits of using a TENS device. It is thought that TENS therapy may be more effective if you place the electrode pads on the acupuncture points of the body. Never place the electrodes on the front of the neck as this can cause spasms and lower blood pressure, or on the eyelids, as this can cause pressure to build up and result in eye injuries.
For neck pain, place electrodes on either side of the neck. For shoulder pain, position them above and below the painful area. For knee pain, place electrodes above and below the knee joint. For lower back pain, try placing on either side of the back at the level of pain.
Special Care for Your Skin When Using a TENS Machine
Skin irritation, such as redness and itchiness, is one of the few side effects that you may experience while using a TENS machine. To help prevent this, try removing the electrode pads every 20 minutes to avoid them being on the skin for too long and causing redness. If irritation occurs, you may wish to use the electrode pads on a different part of the body until it has healed and use a skincare cream to soothe the affected area.
How Long Can You Use a TENS Machine Each Day?
You can use a TENS device as often as you like as it is non-invasive and very safe for most people. The most common duration is around 30-60 minutes, several times a day. More frequent use of a TENS machine can result in skin irritation, so it's advised to give your skin a break every 20 minutes. As they are small and portable, you'll be able to easily carry the unit around with you and apply for pain relief wherever or whenever you need it.
Using a TENS Machine While on Medication
A TENS unit is a low-risk form of managing different types of pain without using painkiller medication. However, they can also be combined with your current medication or used in conjunction with other alternative and natural forms of pain management. Speak to your doctor or healthcare professional about using these machines with your medication.
Precautions to Take
While electrotherapy is generally considered safe for most people, there are some circumstances where it is not recommended. A TENS device is not safe for people with heart problems or who have a pacemaker or other type of electrical or metal implant. They are also not advised for those with epilepsy or for pregnant women to use in the abdominal region. These machines cause a tingling sensation which may be uncomfortable for some people. You should always seek medical advice from medical professionals before deciding to use a TENS machine.
Will it Work for You?
TENS therapy is highly effective for some people but may not work for everyone. Some factors may increase the effectiveness of the machines, including electrode placement, stimulation intensity, and tolerance level. Your body may become tolerant to electrotherapy if you use the same frequency on a daily basis. To avoid this, try alternating between low and high frequencies during each session or gradually increase the intensity and duration each time you use it.
The best thing you can do is to discuss your desire to use a TENS machine with a healthcare professional, such as your doctor or physiotherapist, to determine whether it is a suitable form of pain management for you.
Keeping Your TENS Machine Clean
To keep your machine clean, you'll need to wash the pads after each day that you use them. Turn off the power and disconnect the pads from the wires. Carefully remove them from your skin and wash with soap in cold water using your fingertips for several seconds. Hang the pads up to air-dry and make sure they are completely dry before your next session.
How Amcal Can Help
Amcal has quality TENS machines to help Australian families cope with pain and discomfort at home or anywhere. Shop our Omron TENS devices with pads and customisable features or pick up the Revitive gloves for use with the Revitive TENS machine. Buy them online now with free postage over $89 or come into your nearest Amcal and let our healthcare professionals assist you with all of your questions.
FAQs About TENS Machines
What Does a TENS Machine do for You?
A TENS machine is a type of electrotherapy that stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. It uses small electrical currents delivered through electrodes that are placed on the skin to block pain signals to the brain and provide alternative pain relief for acute and chronic pain conditions, such as muscle and joint pain. TENS therapy can be used alone or combined with other pain relief medication.
Do TENS Machines Actually Work?
TENS machines work by sending gentle electrical pulses to the nervous system to block the pain messages sent to the brain and provide relief. They are also a stimulator for endorphins which are the body's natural painkiller and can improve blood circulation by contracting and relaxing the muscles. Our Omron and Revitive TENS units may assist with these conditions:
- Lower back pain
- Neck pain
- Joint pain
- Labour pains
- Period pain
- Arthritis and more
Can a TENS Unit be Harmful?
A TENS unit is a low-risk alternative to painkiller medication that is safe for most people. Skin irritation is the most common side effect and this can occur when you leave the device on your skin for too long or have it up too high. If redness occurs, use a skincare cream to soothe the area. TENS therapy should also not be used if:
- You have heart problems
- You have a pacemaker
- You are pregnant (can be used in certain places)
- You have epilepsy
Can a TENS Unit Damage Nerves?
TENS therapy is not known to damage nerves. Our Omron and Revitive devices are fully customisable and let you control the intensity of the current as well as the duration and which therapy mode you wish to use. It's important to follow the instructions and speak to a healthcare professional before using a TENS machine to make sure it is the right treatment for you.