Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a safe, easy to use, drug-free method of managing pain. A very low level electrical current is applied to areas of the body using soft gel pads that stick to the skin. The low level electrical current stimulates nerves in the body that help to reduce pain. This information sheet from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains about the use of TENS and how it works
Can anyone use a TENS machine?
- 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
Does TENS have any side effects?
Does TENS work for everyone?
Your child’s TENS machine kit
- Performance Health® TENS machine
- Battery 9 volt (6F22)
- Packet of 4 adhesive electrode pads
- Two lead wires
- Instruction manual
- Performance Health® TENS therapy practical guide.
Programming your child’s TENS machine
- Setting (Mode) = Continuous (C)
- Pulse width (duration) = 70 to 120
- Pulse rate (frequency) = 70 to 120
Setting up and attaching the machine
- Always check that the machine is switched off before starting
- Put the battery in the TENS machine by pulling back the lid and inserting into the battery compartment(the battery may already be inserted)
- Plug the leads into the electrode pads and attach the leads to the machine at the lead connector on top of the machine
- Make sure that the area of skin where the electrode pads will be placed is clean and dry
- Remove the electrodes from the plastic sheet
- Apply the electrode pads to the areas as you have been shown – the electrodes must not be touching, and should be at least one pad’s width apart
- Gently switch on the TENS machine, the green LED light will indicate that the machine is switched on. Ask your child to turn up the dial slowly until the sensation through the electrode pads is strong but comfortable. Your child should feel a gentle tingle or buzzing sensation.
- Your child should feel the sensation in the area where they have pain. If it is not in the right place, switch off the machine and re-positioning the electrode pads.
Positioning the electrode pads
Positioning the electrode pads at the site of the pain:
Positioning the electrode pads on a nerve pathway supplying the painful area:
Turning off the machine
- Switch off the machine by turning the dial on the top of the machine to the OFF position.
- Remove the electrode pads from the skin and place them back on the plastic sheet
- Unplug the leads and store them with the electrode pads in the bag provided
- Store the TENS machine in the bag provided
- If needed, wash the area where the electrode pads were placed with soap and water
- Try replacing the battery – it may be worn out
- Switch off the machine
- Try moistening the pads with a well rung out lint-free damp cloth, such as a cotton cloth. Ensure there is no visible moisture on the pads before reapplying to the skin
- Check the area of skin under the pads for redness and sensitivity. If red do not reapply
- The electrode pads may have lost their stickiness and may be only partially attached to your child’s skin. Wipe the pads with a well rung out lint-free damp cloth such as a cotton cloth. Ensure there is no visible moisture on the pads before reapplying to the skin
- The electrode pads may be worn out so replace them with new ones
- The TENS intensity may be too high so try reducing it until your child feels a mild tingling sensation
- Switch off the machine immediately and replace the lead with spare if available. Do not re-use broken lead.
- Contact the Pain Control Service for a replacement lead
- Remove the pads
- Certain skin types can be sensitive to the adhesive on the electrode pads, most of the pads we recommend are ‘hypoallergenic’ so less likely to cause a reaction.
- If skin irritation continues, please contact the Pain Control Service as we might be able to recommend alternative pads or skin barrier.
Please note this is a generic GOSH information sheet. If you have specific questions about how this relates to your child, please ask your doctor. Please note this information may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals.