What exactly is a TENS machine?

 T.E.N.S stands for Transcutaneous (through the skin) Electrical Nerve Stimulation.

T.E.N.S machines have been used for Managing pain for since the 70s.

The unit is light and portable and clips onto your waistband.


How does it work?

 T.E.N.S works by delivering small electrical impulses via adhesive electrodes to your skin.

T.E.N.S unit have 2-4 electrodes attached via wires.

The electrodes are placed at the Thoracolumbar Junction of the back and on either side of the sacrum to target the uterus and any lower back pain.

These electrical impulses flood the nervous system, reducing the ability to transmit pain signals to the spinal cord and brain this dulls and takes the edge off the pain.

In other words the T.E.N.S tricks your brain into feeling the tingling sensation of the TENS over the sensation of the contraction.

T.E.N.S may also increase the bodies production of our natural endorphins (pain relieving substances.)


Does it really work?

There is limited research into T.E.N.S  probably because way more money is invested into pharmaceutical management of labour pain, however subjectively most women report that the TENS machine helped them to cope during labour.

 I have to say I am biased – I loved my TENS machine  during my labours. T.E.N.S along with breathing, visualisation, affirmations, movements, Swiss ball, distraction techniques  and water Emersion helped me to birth my babies without drugs.

Many of my clients have had the similar experiences.


Is T.E.N.S safe?

 Yes ! Physiotherapists have used TENS machines for pain relief for many conditions for many years.

There are no known side effects to mother or baby. Some women may feel skin irritation from the adhesive pads and some women wont like the sensation.

 Remember to turn the unit off before removing the sticky pads from your back …. Fingers have more nerve endings and are more sensitive than backs;  what feels pleasant on your back may be painful to your (or your birth partner’s) fingers if the electrodes stick to them.

 T.E.N.S will not totally remove the pain but it will dull it and help you to work with your contractions.

The unit is always totally in your control. It has plus and minus switches to increase and decrease the sensation as needed. Many women find they like to increase the intensity as their labour progresses.

Don’t let anyone else take control of it when its on, you should always be the one to control it.

Don’t wait for the pain to be intense before putting on a TENS machine. The best results for pain relief are when T.E.N.S is started early in labour so that the endorphins can start to build up.

T.E.N.S can used until you are holding your baby.


Are all T.E.N.S machines the same?

 Not all T.E.N.S machines are the same. The Obstetric T.E.N.S machine has a ‘Boost’ button to press during a contraction and are specifically set up with the right electrical frequency for Labour.

 The Special feature of the obstetric T.E.N.S is the Boost button. So as you feel a contraction starting you press the Boost button to increase the intensity and frequency of the sensation and when the contraction is over you turn the surge off and it returns to the base level .



T.E.N.S Hire

 If you are local and hire the T.E.N.S unit from me I will spend 15 minutes with you explaining how to use it properly, I will be able to  answer any questions you may have. You also get to experience the sensation so you’ll know whether you think you’re going to like it or not.💕

 It is a good idea to have a practice run before the big day so you are confident in its application, you can do this any time after 37 weeks.

 T.E.N.S machines are not compatible with water and therefore cannot be used it in the bath, shower or birthing pool. If you want to get into the shower or bath simply remove the pads and place them back on the plastic they come with. The sticky electrodes can be reapplied after a shower if you need to use the unit again.

 I recommend Hiring a T.E.N.S unit at 37 weeks just in case baby comes early or you have any lower back pain towards the end of the pregnancy.

 After birth the T.E.N.S can also be used for after pains as the uterus contracts down to its normal size.

If you would like to hire a TENS unit the cost is $55 .This price covers 5 weeks hire and your own set of electrodes.


Written by Kirsten Joyner B.Sc Physiotherapy (hons),Women’s health and Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist , Diploma on contemporary and clinical Pilates, Infant massage instructor. 

Fit-4-2 Physiotherapy ,

Website www.fit-4-2physio.com.au ,

Email fit.4.2physio@gmail.com

Phone  0415 871 043,

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