Electronic pain relief

ML24596Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a form of pain relief used by many people with arthritis, and is widely available from pharmacies and other stores. Find out how it works and where you can buy them by reading our information below. 

What is a TENS machine?

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a treatment that administers mild electrical currents to the skin to relieve pain. A small, lightweight, hand-held, battery-operated device produces the electrical currents and lead wires send these currents to self-adhesive electrode pads that attach to your skin.

While using a TENS machine, you will experience a non-painful tingling or buzzing sensation, and this can help to block or suppress pain messages. Two electrode pads are usually positioned either side of the area of most intense pain. This is done so that the TENS sensation covers the painful area.

Four electrode pads can be used to treat a larger area of pain. You will be able to control the strength, (or ‘volume’) of the current that is passed through the electrodes, with a rotary knob or dial. Some machines have larger controls that are easier to use if your hand movements are limited.

Adjust the strength of the current until the tingling sensation from TENS is strong, but not painful. You will also be able to adjust the pattern and speed of the current, so that the TENS sensation is as comfortable as possible. Many TENS machines are digital and have helpful pre-sets to help you choose the best settings for your pain.