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TENS Machines

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 17 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is a well known method of controlling pain. It works by applying electrodes to the body at specific points through which are delivered electrical impulses. These impulses block the pain messages sent to the brain by increasing the production of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers, which are faster in transmission than pain messages.

The devices are highly recommended in the presence of chronic pain conditions, particularly of the lower back when sciatica, arthritis, lumbago and strains and sprains have occurred.They are safe for long-term use, with no side-effects and can help lower or eliminate the need for analgesic medications.


Always seek advice before using a device if pregnant, ask your midwife or GP for recommended uses of a TENS machine.Effectiveness varies from person to person, depending on their perception of pain, their compliance with the device and their expected outcomes.

Devices can come with either three or four electrodes, and the placement of these electrodes can be altered between different users. It can take a little experimentation of trying the electrodes in different areas before a suitable effect is gained.It takes roughly one hour of use before the maximum benefit is experienced, a point to be considered before trying to sleep.The use of a TENS machine is not recommended when the person has a pacemaker fitted and advice should be sought if epilepsy has been diagnosed.

Never apply the electrode pads to areas of broken skin or where there is a rash. The adhesive gel on the pads may exacerbate symptoms. TENS machines should not be used in the presence of water for obvious safety reasons.

Where Can a TENS Machine be Bought?

Before buying a TENS machine, it is suggested that a machine is hired first to determine whether this therapy is beneficial to the sufferer. Your GP, Physiotherapist, Orthopaedic Specialist or pain team should be able to tell you where these machines can be hired from. Many NHS Trusts rent them out to users at a minimal cost, sometimes at no charge, depending on circumstances.

There are many retailers that sell TENS machines and prices vary from £20 to £200, so it is worth shopping around. Prices also suggest the facilities of the device. Some have varying impulse rates, others have varying duration of impulse delivery and many have both.

The size and the controls on the machine can also be reflected in the price. If the user is intending on being highly mobile whilst using the device, a small portable machine will be more beneficial. Some machines come with buttons, others with dials; it is the individuals choice as to which they prefer and can operate most easily.

When going to purchase a machine, take a letter from your GP recommending a device is purchased as some retailers offer discounts to NHS patients.

Healthcare professionals have been recommending the use of TENS machines for many years. If the user perseveres and tries alternating the position of the electrodes, a great deal of benefit can be gained by using this equipment.

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