TENS : Using Electrical stimulation for Pain Relief

Amy Bean
Tuesday, October 17th, 2023

What is it?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS as it commonly referred to, is the use of electrical stimulation for pain relief.

In simple terms this type of electrical stimulation blocks the pain signals being sent to the brain and spinal cord to provide pain relief. It therefore doesn’t combat the cause of the problem but can provide much needed temporary relief for some users and is a potential alternative to medication.

Depending on the cause of the pain, the relief may provide relaxation to muscles that are in spasm because of the pain which will allow more freedom in movement. TENS can also stimulate the production of endorphins, our bodies natural pain killers.

Not all users will find pain relief from using TENS and the research is mixed, but it is a fairly safe and easy to use option for people experiencing pain to try.

How is it delivered?

SaeboStim Pro

TENS is delivered by an electrical stimulation device, such as our SaeboStim Pro , through electrodes which are stuck to the skin and which are placed around the area of pain e.g. shoulder. Our SaeboStim Pro has 3 different pre set TENS programmes to choose from with varying parameters which we will describe in more detail further down this post.

How to use it?

When applying the stimulation, position the electrodes either side of the area of pain (this can be vertical, horizontal or at an angle). If you have a 2 channel device you can use 4 electrodes to cover a larger area or treat 2 different areas e.g. either side of the lower back. The electrodes want to be a minimum of 2.5cm apart. For comfort place on muscle and avoid placing on bone or over a joint. Electrodes shouldn’t be placed over the front of the neck, head, eyes, open wounds or cancerous lesions.

Turn the stimulation up very gradually until a strong, but comfortable tingling stimulation is felt around the electrodes. If it is uncomfortable or becomes uncomfortable as the programme runs turn the stimulation down slightly. Run the programme as per the instruction manual for your device; our SaeboStim Pro TENS programmes are pre set at 30 minutes. How often you use it during the day will vary with each person but as a guide if your pain is acute or you are just starting with TENS start with 30 minutes per day. If your pain is chronic and you are used to TENS you can use it multiple times per day. If you are unsure, seek advice from a professional.

When the programme ends, remove the electrodes from your skin and store them correctly for their next application. You may have redness initially where the electrodes have been, this should disappear within 20 to 30 minutes. If it doesn’t disappear, your skin may be irritated by the electrodes; you should consider using hypoallergenic electrodes which have a slightly thicker gel layer for comfort or apply the electrodes to a different area of skin for the next application.

Our SaeboStim Pro has 3 TENS programmes pre set. For chronic/long term pain use Programme 11, for more acute/early onset pain use programme 12. Programme 13 is alternates between 2 frequencies which can result in an increased analgesic effect for some users. If you are not using our SaeboStim Pro please refer to the device’s instruction manual for guidance.

Can anyone use it?

No, there are some medical conditions that make any form of electrical stimulation unsafe which includes TENS. If in any doubt, consult a health professional for advice. If you have any of the following, TENS is contraindicated:

  • Pacemaker
  • Metal implant where the electrodes are placed
  • Pregnancy
  • Uncontrolled epilepsy.

If you want to learn more about contraindications read our recent blog on the subject.

As TENS is a pain management tool, it is important to seek assistance for the cause and management of the underlying problem in addition to using TENS.

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