How to Use a TENS Machine?

tens machine

If you own a TENS machine and want to optimise its performance, please read this article.

How to Use Your TENS Machine

Most mid to higher priced TENS machine can be easily programmed to provide you with effective pain relief.  Cheaper models are only programmed for one setting or may only have preset TENS machine programs. You will not be able to alter the settings, only the power you feel, in cheaper TENS machines.  

You may need to remove the battery cover to adjust the settings. Please follow your manual for instructions.

Seek Professional Advice

Your TENS machine is an electronic pain relieving machine that may assist you in the relief of pain. An EMS machine is an electrical muscle stimulator that may assist muscle strengthening. TENS machines and EMS machines should always be used as directed and under the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. 

Your physiotherapist is an expert in the application of a TENS machine or an EMS machine.  Please ask your physiotherapist or health practitioner for specific advice to assist your pain relief via a TENS machine. 

Always read the instruction manual prior to use. If symptoms persist we strongly recommend that you seek the advice of your physiotherapist or a suitably trained health professional.

What TENS Machine Settings Should You Try First?

If you would like to trial some different TENS machine settings to see which TENS machine setting work best for you, here are some guidelines to help you customise your TENS machine.

Please follow all the instructions for either Program 1, 2 or 3.

TENS Machine Programs

Program 1 is aimed at acute pain relief. Try this program first.

Program 2 is aimed at muscle relaxation (massaging effect).

Program 3 is aimed at chronic pain (that does not respond to Program 1 or 2)

Note: Try the different programmes to find the one that "you" feel is the most effective.  There is no right or wrong settings. It's what works best for you.

How to Setup your TENS Machine for Pain Relief

Most TENS machine have an ability to set the modality of pulse delivery. Try:

Program 1: Constant Stimulation at the frequency and pulse width setting. Most commonly used or acute pain relief via a gating effect.

Program 2: Modulation. The frequency varies between different settings to help reduce nerve adaptation. This is useful for acute and chronic pain relief.

Program 3: Burst Mode. The unit will send through a burst of pain relieving power.  Useful in chronic pain relief.

Setting the TENS Machine Pulse Rate (Frequency)

Pulse Rate is the number of electrical pulses you will feel in one second.  Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz).  Pain relief can occur at various frequencies.  

Acute pain is usually most effective  between 80 and 120 Hz.  Chronic pain can also benefit from lower settings 2 to 10Hz that stimulates an endorphin release.  A setting between 35 and 50Hz is commonly used to stimulate muscles for strengthening or even relaxation.

We recommend the following settings (choose one):

Program 1:  80 to 100Hz

Program 2:  60 to 100Hz

Program 3: 2 to 10Hz

Setting the TENS Machine Pulse Width

These are the ON periods of the current.  Generally speaking, pain relief will occur with low to mid time periods.  Muscle stimulation requires a longer pulse width to successfully reproduce a muscle contraction.

You can alter the time that each pulse lingers before resetting. The time period is extremely small.  It's measured in microseconds uS (1000th's of a second).  While you may not notice the difference, your nerves can.

We recommend the following settings (choose one):

Program 1, 2 or 3:  175 to 200uS

You can strengthen the power of your machine by increasing the pulse width.

What Time Duration Should You Use a TENS Machine?

We recommend the following settings (choose one):

Program 1:  20 to 60min

Program 2:  20 to 60min

Program 3: 20 to 30min

How Often Should You Use Your TENS Machine?

A TENS machine is non-addictive. This means you can safely use your TENS machine as often as you like without fear of nasty side-effects.

A successful approach can be to use your TENS machine as a replacement for analgesic drug-therapy. Rather than reaching for a tablet, reach for your TENS machine instead.

A TENS machine provide relief for many hours.  If you know that your pain will last for about 4 hours, try using your machine around the 3 1/2 or 4 hour mark to pre-empt the onset of your pain.

Seek Professional Advice

Your TENS machine is an electronic pain relieving machine that may assist you in the relief of pain. An EMS machine is an electrical muscle stimulator that may assist muscle strengthening. TENS machines and EMS machines should always be used as directed and under the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. 

Your physiotherapist is an expert in the application of a TENS machine or an EMS machine.  Please ask your physiotherapist or health practitioner for specific advice to assist your pain relief via a TENS machine. 

Always read the instruction manual prior to use. If symptoms persist we strongly recommend that you seek the advice of your physiotherapist or a suitably trained health professional.

Information about TENS Machines & EMS Machines

TENS Machine & EMS Machine FAQs

  • What Conditions can a TENS Machine Help?
  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • Which is the Best TENS Machine for You?
  • What is Pain?
  • What Time does it take for a TENS Machine to Work?
  • How does a TENS Machine provide Pain Relief?
  • Which Nerve Fibres Does a TENS Machine Stimulate?
  • What is EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation)?
  • Which TENS Machine or EMS has the Features that you want?
  • How a TENS Machine Works? Scientific Explanation
  • How to Use a TENS Machine?
  • TENS Machine - Private Health Insurance Rebate
  • TENS Machine & EMS Machine Research
  • TENS Machines


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