Using a TENS machine for period pain, back pain, headaches and muscle aches is becoming increasingly popular. You may be wondering— what is a TENS machine, and how does it work? VUSH is here to answer those questions and share exactly how to go about the placement of TENS machine pads.
What is a TENS Machine?
A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit, or TENS machine, is a battery-operated device that people use to relieve different forms of pain, such as headaches, menstrual cramps, or back pain. As a non-invasive, natural form of pain relief, a TENS machine offers an easy alternative to painkillers or complementary relief for severe pain.
How do TENS Machines Work?
A TENS machine works by delivering tiny electrical impulses through electrodes. This is done by attaching adhesive electro pads to the skin— these will be connected to the TENS on cordless devices or have completely separate pads on devices with cords, depending on which brand of TENS you use.
The use of electrical impulses to influence the nervous system reduces its ability to transmit pain signals around the body. When the brain’s pain signals are blocked, the uncomfortable period pain, headache, or back pain is put on pause!
TENS Machine Placement for Everything from Back Pain to a Headache
When used correctly, a TENS machine can help with everything from period pain to headaches. The proper placement of TENS machine pads determines how well the device will work. The pads placement depends on where you feel the most discomfort. The best results are achieved from placing the pads at the pain point.
Here are some potential placement options:
Are you struggling with period pain? To address menstrual cramps and other abdominal discomforts, placing pads just above the pelvic region can help. Placing a TENS machine on the abdomen can relieve period pain and also help soothe IBS symptoms. Placing the device just below the abdomen and above the mons pubis can also alleviate pelvic pain and may help pelvic floor muscle relaxation.
The neck is a part of the body that influences everything from headaches to back pain. To ease this type of discomfort, place two electrodes on either side of your spine, just below the neck. The upper back and lower neck have a higher oil content than other areas of the body— ensure the skin is completely clean before attaching a TENS. Do not place the electrodes on the front of your neck or directly over your spine; this is dangerous and will reduce the effect of the TENS.
If you are experiencing a headache or sore shoulders, place the electrodes on the bulk of the muscle close to the neck or closer to the edge of your shoulder. This is ideal for soothing pain after a night of bad sleep or a day at work slouched over a desk.
Back pain comes in many forms. To address upper back discomfort, place the electrodes on the painful area. But remember, avoid placement directly over the spine! If your TENS has four individual electrode pads, try putting them around the painful area in a square formation.
The same rules apply for lower back pain relief. When it comes to TENS machine back pain placement, put the electrodes in a position that targets the area causing you discomfort directly. Using a TENS device on your lower back is great for soothing pain associated with the pelvis, poor posture, or periods.
To manage hip pain, place the electrodes on the upper part of your buttocks. If your TENS has four individual electrode pads, place the other two just below. This placement of TENS machine pads can also work to relieve period pain, pelvic pain, and back pain.
Ankles & Feet
To soothe sore muscles or improve bladder control, place your TENS near your ankle. If your TENS has two individual electrode pads, try placing one pad on the sole of your foot and another on the calf. You could also try placing two electrodes on the top surface of the foot with another just near the ankle joint. Be careful when placing a TENS device on a joint, as movement will alter its adhesion.
Arms, Elbows & Wrists
For TENS machines with multiple electrode pads, placing two electrodes on either side of the elbow and the back of your arm provides an even target area. To extend the effect, place one electrode higher than those and another below them. Avoid the elbow directly because of the joint movement.
For more information on specifically how to use a TENS machine, read our guide to using Aura, the pain relief device by VUSH.
What are TENS Device Best Practices?
Using a TENS machine to alleviate pain and discomfort may seem straightforward, but there are a few best practices that you should follow to ensure you get the best results and avoid damage.
1. Find the Exact Location of Your Pain Point
To provide a more specific form of pain relief, it helps to target the exact location where you are experiencing discomfort. Provided this is an area where it is safe to use a TENS machine, you will be able to experience better results faster by putting the TENS right on the pain point.
2. Never Place Pads on Your Joints or Near Your Face
TENS machines are great for relieving discomforts like period and back pain, but there are some areas where they should never be used. For example, genitals and joints will not respond well to a TENS machine. Also, be sure that you never place TENS pads over or near your eyes or temples. Device placement on the head, the joints, and any particularly sensitive areas like the genitals or heart, should be avoided.
3. Use the Lowest Intensity Level When You First Use It
Despite the temptation to go straight to the highest setting to relieve the pain ASAP, we recommend taking it slow. You can always adjust the intensity levels as you need. Experiment with the lower intensity levels and pad placement to see how your body reacts before rushing to change the settings. For personalised pain relief, keep an eye out for TENS machines with multiple modes to choose from.
4. Place Pads on Clean Dry Skin
To ensure that the pads are adhesive, it is vital that your skin is clean and dry before every application. It can be easy to skip this step when struggling with pain, but it’s important to take your time and do it right. If the settings ever feel too strong, double check that the TENS machine is attached properly and not peeling off due to not cleaning the skin prior.
Read More on Wellness
Browse our VUSH Wellness Blog for various resources on how TENS machines can support you through your menstrual cycle, chronic illness such as endometriosis, or back pain.
If you want to know more about surviving your period or how the menstrual cycle affects mental health, our blogs are here to help.
As for any questions or thoughts you might like to share with our team, please don’t hesitate to contact us and one of our friendly VUSH team members will be in touch as soon as possible.
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