TENS machines: a buyer's guide
Updated: February 2020
What is TENS technology?
TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a technique that aims to relieve musculoskeletal pain using a low-voltage electrical current. This current is produced by a device called a nerve stimulator, which sends small electrical impulses to your nerves via electrodes placed on your skin over a nerve pathway, or close to the painful area.
The benefits of TENS machines
The electrical impulses delivered by TENS machines work in three different ways. By stimulating the mechanisms that cause pain, they block the transmission of pain signals to your brain, stimulate the production of your body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, and improve your blood circulation. This triple action helps to relieve back, muscle and joint pain, painful shoulders, tired legs and feet, cramps or numbness in the legs, nerve pain, and other types of acute or chronic pain.
TENS machines therefore have numerous benefits. Besides the fact that they offer you a non-invasive, drug-free method of pain relief (which enables you to reduce or even completely avoid side effects), these devices allow you to specifically target the painful area and ensure that your treatment is fully tailored to your individual needs. TENS machines allow you to adjust the strength, frequency and duration of the electrical stimulations.
Types of OMRON TENS machines and their features
OMRON offers two different types of TENS machines. The first is the ‘traditional’ pain-relief TENS machines that help you to relieve pain using Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (like the E3 Intense), and the second type combines Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation with the pain-relieving benefits of heat, also using electrodes (like the HeatTens model).
In addition to whether or not they use pain-relieving heat, there are several device-specific features that can help you to choose between the models on offer, such as the variety of pre-set programs, the parts of the body they can treat, their heat control settings, and the range of options to personalise your treatment.
The E3 Intense is a TENS machine that features a compact design – it is small and lightweight, which means you can take it anywhere. It has 6 pre-set programs intended for your back, shoulders, joints, arms, legs, feet and the soles of your feet, as well as 3 massage modes and 15 intensity levels. Its electrodes are designed to withstand long-term use and can be washed and reused up to 150 times.
The HeatTens model provides Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and diffuses pain-relieving heat at the same time. It has 9 pre-set programs designed for your back, shoulders, joints, arms, legs and feet, as well as 3 all-over massage programs, 9 massage modes and 10 intensity levels. This device also features 2 different heat settings (as well as the option to use it without any heat), a ‘Quick Relief’ button for fast relief from acute pain, a ‘Hyper’ mode allowing you to move gradually from normal through to high intensity, as well as a ‘Soft’ mode that ensures you will not aggravate an existing pain. The HeatTens also comes with two electrodes that can be individually selected.
How to use a TENS machine
A TENS machine consists of a nerve stimulator (which generates electrical impulses) connected to electrodes. Once you have charged the nerve stimulator and placed the electrodes on your skin either side of the painful area or nerve pathway, simply press the start button, select the desired program and choose your intensity (and the heat setting, if you are using the HeatTens model) in order to start the device.