Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

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TENS machines are often used as a treatment by physiotherapists. It is a non-invasive treatment that is used to reduce pain. TENS is thought to reduce pain by interrupting the pain signals going to the brain. TENS may also help to release endorphins, a chemical that is otherwise known as the body’s natural painkiller. TENS may help you to participate more fully in everyday activities.

TENS is a small battery-powered device that is attached to wires and electrodes. The electrodes are placed on the skin, usually on either side of the area where the pain is located. An electrical signal is sent through the electrodes, and into specific nerves. This is not painful. You may feel tingling when you use it. TENS can be used to treat acute and chronic pain. It may be used in combination with pain-relieving medications.

Pain relief may be short term, lasting from minutes to hours. With prolonged use, pain relief from TENS may last much longer.

Although TENS machines can be bought over the counter, children should only use a TENS machine on the advice of their doctor or physiotherapist.

In addition, children should not use a TENS machine if:

  • They have a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).
  • They have epilepsy.
  • The source of pain is over the site of any previous surgery where internal metalwork, such as screws, wires, implants or metal plates have been inserted.
  • They have poor sensation in the area where the electrodes are to be applied.

If you have any questions about the suitability of TENS for your child, please discuss this with your child’s doctor or pain specialists.

Last updated: January 31st 2017