How does a TENS machine work?

What is TENS?

TENS machines are a technology that has been around for a while now but recently they have become much more efficient and better at treating certain ailments. How exactly does a TENS machine work though?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or as it is more generally known TENS is a method of pain relief which involves small electrical pulses. Because of this it can be an excellent choice of treatment for anyone who prefers to go down the drug free route to painkilling. There are many different uses for a TENS machine ranging from muscle aches and pains through to Nervous system problems.

How does a TENS machine work?

A TENS machine is a battery operated unit that works by sending small electrical pulses though sticky pad electrodes. The sticky pads are then placed in specific spots on your skin depending on what it is being used to treat. Once the pads are in place the machine can be switched on and then a preset mode used with a controllable power setting. The user will then feel a tingling sensation around the area covered by an electrode.

The electrical pulses work in a couple of different ways. This is where things are going to get scientific!

  1. The pain signals from the site of injury are blocked by the electrical stimulation. The way that this happens is through the gate control theory of pain. The basics of this theory are that when the gate is open pain signals can be received by the brain and when it is closed the pain signals do not reach the brain. What this means is that by sending the electric pulses the gate mechanism in the brain and central nervous system is tricked into shutting. This happens because the brain is too busy dealing with the signals being sent through the nervous system from the electrical current and cannot process the pain signals. It is kind of the same principle as to when you receive a scrape or sting and then rub the area of injury which temporarily eases the pain.
  2. Along with the gate control theory there is an added bonus to TENS machine treatment, the electrical stimulation to the nerve endings causes the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are a very strong natural hormone which act as the bodies own version of morphine. When released into the blood stream Endorphins then provide amazing relief from pain signals sent to the brain.

As you can imagine with both of these factors taking part a TENS machine can provide adequate pain relief for quote a few ailments.

Does a TENS machine work for everyone?

Although there has not been much in the way of detailed medical research and studies into the use of TENS machines. However many users of TENS unit rely on the pain relief that they provide. For some users it is because of the 2 theory’s above and for others it is because the electrical stimulation alone is enough to take their minds off the aches and pains that they are feeling. It is a real shame that there has not been any solid research into its use as so many people have said they have benefited from them.

Whilst Tens machines work for a huge variety of ailments not everyone should use one, some medical conditions can be worsened by TENS therapy, these include but are not limited to.

  • People who suffer from epilepsy.
  • Cancerous lesions.
  • Abdominal or inguinal hernia.
  • Blood flow deficiencies or venous thrombosis
  • Anyone who is fitted with a cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator.

How much do TENS machines cost.

Tens machines vary in cost from very basic low cost units to more advanced units which can carry a bigger price tag. Here at TENS Machine Pro we recommend starting with a mid range device which should not set you back more that £30-£70 depending on which model you choose. We review and recommend units on our website so that you can find the right machine for your own needs. If you would like to see some of our Tens machines reviews please have a look at our TENS reviews page. If you feel like you need any more information about how TENS machines work or their uses or prices then please feel free to leave a comment below!



TENS Machine Pro Administrator
TENS Machine Pro is made up of a number of veteran TENS machine users. We strongly believe that we can help you on your way to pain relief! All of our writings are fact checked and sources and further reading listed at the bottom of posts.