TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a method of pain relief involving the use of a mild electrical current.

A TENS machine is a small, battery-operated device that has leads connected to sticky pads called electrodes.

ou attach the pads directly to your skin. When the machine is switched on, small electrical impulses are delivered to the affected area of your body, which you feel as a tingling sensation.

The electrical impulses can reduce the pain signals going to the spinal cord and brain, which may help relieve pain and relax muscles. They may also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers.

How TENS machines work

Electrodes are taped on to your back and connected by wires to a small battery-powered stimulator. Holding this, you give yourself small, safe amounts of current through the electrodes. You can move around while you use TENS.  

TENS is believed to work by stimulating the body to produce more of its own natural painkillers, called endorphins. It also reduces the number of pain signals sent to the brain by the spinal cord.

Side effects of TENS machines

There are no known side effects for either you or the baby.

Are there any risks of side effects?

For most people, TENS is a safe treatment with no side effects.

Some people may be allergic to the pads and their skin may become red and irritated, but special pads for people with allergies are available.

TENS isn't safe for everyone to use. Don't use it without first seeking medical advice if:

  • you have a pacemaker or another type of electrical or metal implant in your body

  • you're pregnant, or there's a chance you might be pregnant – TENS may not be recommended early in pregnancy

  • you have epilepsy or a heart problem