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How to Use a TENS Machine for Pain Relief

You may have heard of TENS units and machines before; they are natural methods of pain relief, used for anything from labour to back pain. All TENS machines work slightly differently, but they all have a similar result: they help your brain to release more endorphins, stopping your body from feeling so much pain. They are also thought to be a good distraction from the pain, and help you to feel more in control of the sensations you’re feeling. Some claim that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that these machines actually work and they merely create a placebo effect, but many people swear by them!

Which TENS Settings Should You Try First?

It’s important that you customise your TENS unit in order for it to be suitable for the kind of pain you’re in. Here are the TENS settings you should try first:

  • Program 1 – program 1 is designed for acute pain relief.
  • Program 2 – this is good for muscle relaxation and massage.
  • Program 3 – this program is good for chronic pain.

You’ll need to try out these different programs and select the one you find works best for you. There’s no real ‘right or wrong’, it’s simply what seems to be working for you.

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Setting  Up Your TENS For Pain Relief

  • Program 1 will give you constant stimulation at the frequency and pulse setting.
  • Program 2 will vary between different settings to help reduce nerve adaptation.
  • Program 3 is burst mode which will give you a burst of relieving power.

Setting Your TENS Pulse Rate

The pulse rate is the number of pulses you’ll feel in one second. Pain relief can occur at different frequencies. For acute pain 80-120 Hz is usually most effective. Chronic pain can benefit from lower settings, anything from 2 – 10Hz. Choose a setting between 35 – 50Hz is commonly used to stimulate muscles for relaxation.

Setting The TENS Machine Pulse Width

Pulse width is the ON periods of the current. Pain relief will usually occur with low to mid time periods. Muscle stimulation will require a longer pulse to reproduce muscle contraction. You are free to change the time each pulse lingers for before resetting. The time period is measured in microseconds, so bear in mind that although you may not be able to notice the difference, your nerves will be able to.

How Long Should You Use The TENS Machine?

Use the TENS machine for as long as follows:

  • Program 1 – 20 – 60 minutes.
  • Program 2 – 20 – 60 minutes.
  • Program 3  – 20 – 30 minutes.

How Often Should You Use Your TENS Machine?

A TENS machine is a non addictive form of pain relief, so you can use it as often as you feel you need to. There are no nasty side effects to worry about either! However, you should always use a TENS machine under the guidance of your doctor.

If you feel you could use a TENS machine for pain relief, make sure you book an appointment with your GP to ensure it’s suitability. TENS is a great alternative to medical pain relief, so try it out and see how it works for you!

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