What Does a TENS Machine Do for You?

What Does a TENS Machine Do for You?

TENS machines are becoming more and more popular. Many who suffer from knee, back, neck, and other types of pain are using TENS machines as an alternative to pain killers. 

A TENS machine is a small portable and battery-operated device that delivers gentle electrical impulses to electrode pads placed on the skin. These pads are placed on or near the area the pain is coming from.

How Does a TENS Machine work?

The machine sends electrical signals to the pads to stimulate local nerves and alter pain.

How it works is there is a pain pathway that connects your tissues like your muscles, tendons and ligaments to your brain. When you are in pain, receptors from the injured area send “nociceptive signals” to the brain. Nociception refers to the detection of a harmful stimulus. Once these signals reach your brain, it takes in other factors like the environment you’re in, your past painful experiences, and more and then creates a painful feeling in the affected area. This means that the pain you are experiencing comes from your brain, not the injury or condition you have.

For example, say you hurt your knee. The pain is not actually coming from your knee. Your brain is sending painful signals through the pathway that travels from your knee to your brain. These descending signals will cause the pain you feel in your knee.

The brain lets you know when an affected area hurts! With a TENS machine, you can actually interrupt these pain signals to help reduce pain. The electrical signals produced from the machine can overlay the nociception signals going between your brain and your painful area. This then works to bring your pain down.

Conditions TENS machines are used for

TENS machines have been used to relieve both long-term pain and short-term pain. Some of these conditions include:

Benefits of TENS machine

1.) Pain relief

The most common use and primary advantage of a TENS machine is pain relief. It helps alter signals between the injured area and your brain which reduces the feeling of pain. Not only that, but when you stimulate your nerves with a TENS machine it increases the level of circulating endorphins in your body. Endorphins are a natural painkiller which can help you feel better!

Knee pain treatment with TENS courtesy of PhysioPlus Health Group (Read the caption)

2.) TENS can offer a non-invasive method to relieve pain

Many pain-relieving techniques are invasive and carry negative side effects with them. TENS machines, however, are non-invasive and have no negative side effects when used appropriately. There are particular populations who are contra-indicated for using TENS. You should always consult with your primary care physician before use.

3.) Small and portable

You can take your TENS machine anywhere, as many are battery-operated. You can use it while sitting on the couch watching your favourite tv shows. You can even use it while watching your children or grandchildren play sports or after playing with your grandchild.

4.) Easily adjustable to your comfort level

Some need more intensity while others are more sensitive and need less intensity. You can adjust the frequency and intensity to provide the right amount of pain relief your body really needs.

5.) Can increase circulation which promotes healing

Not only do TENS machines modify pain, but the electrical impulses can also help enhance local circulation. Circulation is critical for healing as good blood flow drives essential nutrients to promote healing.

6.) Improve sleep

Reducing pain can help you sleep better. The less pain the easier it is to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is important as good sleep is critical for overcoming an injury.

7.) Affordable

Relative to other pain relief treatment options, TENS machines are quite low in price

8.) No adverse side effects

Since it’s noninvasive, a TENS machine can help your body respond naturally to pain without the nasty side effects that come with certain pain killers. It is a great way to decrease pain without side effects when used correctly.

Now a TENS machine only masks the symptoms temporarily. If you would like more long-term relief by finding the root cause of your pain we have Physiotherapists in almost every city in Canada that may be able to help you. To find one near you just use the search box on this page.


TENS Machine benefits courtesy of Koonar Physiotherapy. (Read the caption)


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

As long as you use it correctly it’s generally safe. If you use it incorrectly by setting the intensity too high or placing the pads on the wrong body part, it can burn or irritate your skin.

Do not place the pads on your heart, brain, eyes, genitals or throat.

It can give you anywhere from 1 hour to permanent relief. It really depends on your injury or condition.

About Taylor Sipos

Taylor is a physiotherapist at The Orthopaedic Therapy Clinic located in Toronto, Ontario. He treats patients with various musculoskeletal conditions using patient education, exercise therapy, manual therapy and acupuncture. His treatment philosophy involves giving his patient’s the means to self-manage their injuries. He does this through reassurance, education and health promotion. Taylor uses the same principles as a patient educator at Pain Hero. He aims to provide you with high-quality, easy to understand information to teach you about your condition and how to improve it.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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