Who can use a Tens Machine?

If you suffer from any of the following conditions:

  • Pain chronic or acute
  • Long term Chronic Back pain
  • Knee Joint Arthritis
  • Sports Injuries
  • Early Stage of Labor
  • Migraine headaches
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Incontinence
  • Pelvic floor re-education

and you are searching for a drug and surgery free solution that might possibly assist, then it is recommended to consider getting a TENS machine or EMS machine.


How do TENS machines work?

TENS machines are thought to work in two ways:

  • On a high pulse rate of 90-130 Hz (the normal method of use), the electrical impulses generated by the TENS machine interfere with and block pain messages sent to the brain. This is due to the gate control theory of pain. This proposes that there is a gate mechanism in the brain and spinal cord nerves (the central nervous system). When the gate is open, pain messages get through to the brain and we feel pain. When the gate is closed, these pain messages are blocked and we do not feel pain. TENS machines are thought to stimulate certain non-pain-carrying nerves and close the gate. In effect, the brain is busy dealing with the messages it receives quickly from the TENS machine, rather than the slower (more painful) pain signals that the body is receiving from elsewhere. It explains why, if you injure yourself, rubbing that area can temporarily reduce the pain.
  • When the machine is set on a low pulse rate (2-5 Hz) it stimulates the body to make its own pain-easing chemicals called endorphins. These act a bit like morphine to block pain signals.
  • A TENS machine is personally controlled by the user. This means its settings can be adjusted, without having to visit a medical professional. Typically, a machine would be used for 15-20 minutes per session, several times per day. See below for specific instructions.
  • TENS machines are most commonly used for people with musculoskeletal pain, such as long-term (chronic) back pain or knee joint arthritis. They are also often used for pain relief in the early stages of labour, particularly whilst a pregnant woman remains at home. Other less common uses include migraine headaches, period pains, sports injuriesand sometimes (quite rarely) non-painful conditions such as tiredness, insomnia or dementia.
  • TENS machines can be used alone for pain relief or be combined with other treatments. The use of a TENS machine might allow reduction of the amount of painkilling medicines you take. Although you might need to try a few settings on your TENS machine before finding the best one for you, there are no real side-effects from using a TENS machine. A TENS machine might be worth a trial, particularly if conventional pain relief methods have been tried and exhausted.

If you are new to using a TENS machine, take things slowly, even if you are finding it useful. Don’t try to do too much too soon (as you may hurt yourself and make the pain worse). Also don’t stop all your normal painkilling medication too quickly. If you are on either a lot of strong painkillers or a number of different ones, it might be worth consulting your GP for advice. Your GP can help you reduce them safely so you have fewer side-effects.


What does TENS stand for?

Transcutaneous  Electrical Nerve Stimulation


What is the contraendications of tens or EMS

TENS machines tend mainly to be used to help reduce pain from problems in muscles, joints and nerves (so-called musculoskeletal pain). They may work better for these problems than for tummy (abdominal), chest or head pains. Unlike a lot of medication there are virtually no side-effects when using a TENS machine. However, people with the following must not use a TENS machine:

  • When the cause of the pain is not known or is not diagnosed.
  • Pregnancy (unless specifically medically advised – or in labour).
  • Epilepsy or certain types of heart disease.


What does EMS stand for?

EMS stands for: Electrical Muscle Stimulator


How do I choose a Tens Machine?

It is important to know that tens machines can be quite inexpensive as well as very expensive. It is very rare that devices with very high values are needed if used in home conditions. For the patient prices can vary between R500.00 and R2500.00 depending on what functions and features are required.

Generally these devices are split between 2 main electrotherapy currents:

TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator)


EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulator)


Most of these devices are available with either the Tens function, which is more commonly recommended for more of the Pain conditions, or with the EMS function which is more popular for muscle re-education, muscle atrophy, and muscle training.

The EMS function is also popular in certain Incontinence and pelvic floor training protocols, especially after Labour in pregnancy.

These devices are also available in combination devices and often these machines are preset with a library of programs to assist with setting the right parameter for your condition.

In conclusion it is important to make sure that you select the device with the closest compatibility to your needs and conditions by researching the product properly and asking for assistance by your trusted supplier.


Cautions when using a TENS machine

  • Do not place electrode pads on broken or damaged skin.
  • Do not place electrode pads over the front or side of the neck, close to eyes or in the mouth.
  • Do not use over areas of reduced sensation.
  • Do not use near water such as in the bath or shower.
  • Do not use when driving or operating machinery


What Is a TENS Unit?


A TENS unit is a portable, battery-powered device. The TENS unit uses safe electrical signals to help control pain. Electrodes are placed on your skin. The TENS unit sends electrical signals through the electrodes to the nerves under your skin.


What is a TENS machine and how does it work?


A TENS machine is a small portable, battery-operated device which is worn on the body. The box is attached by wires to electrodes stuck to the skin. Small electrical pulses are transmitted to the body, like little electric shocks. This can help to ease pain in some people with certain types of pain.


What is the purpose of a TENS unit?


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy that uses electrical current for pain relief. You do TENS with a small, battery-powered machine about the size of a pocket radio. Usually, you connect two electrodes from the machine to your skin.


What is TENS in Physiotherapy?


TENS is a method of electrical stimulation which primarily aims to provide a degree of symptomatic pain relief by exciting sensory nerves and thereby stimulating either the pain gate mechanism and/or the opioid system.