Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
This handout explains what TENS is and how it may help you.
What is TENS?
TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical
Nerve Stimulation. TENS units send
electrical pulses through the skin to the
nerves to control pain. Unlike drugs, TENS
does not have any major side effects.
How Does TENS Help Pain?
TENS helps pain in two ways:
1. The TENS blocks pain signals and
confuses your brain so that you are
not aware of the pain.
2. The body releases natural pain
killers, called endorphins. These
chemicals block the awareness of
pain. This is how the TENS may
provide pain relief, even after it is
removed. A TENS unit may be worn
as many hours as needed for pain
How to Start a Therapy Session
1. Connect the lead wire(s) to the
patches and the device. NOTE:
Make sure the device is turned off.
2. Wash and dry the skin areas where
you will be applying the patches.
3. Apply the patches to your skin.
4. On the device, press the on/off
5. Start in the SMP mode.
6. Use the Ch1 and Ch 2 buttons to set
the strength for each channel. Keep
increasing until you feel a strong but
not painful feeling. It should not
cause your muscles to contract.
How to Change a Therapy Session
1. If SMP mode is not effective, there
are other program options.
2. You can change options by pressing
the mode button or any of the five
Quick Select Program buttons.
3. For safety, the device will lock.
Press the down button to unlock.
How to End of Session
1. On the device, press the on/off
button to shut the device off.
2. Disconnect the wire(s) from the
3. Remove the patches from your skin.
Place back on the plastic backings
between uses. If they are too dry,
apply a drop of water to the patch.
4. Use skin cream or lotion to
moisturize your skin after removing
Do not Use
1. If you have a cardiac pacemaker or
2. If you are pregnant.
3. On your head or over your throat.
4. With a heart monitor or history of
seizures unless your provider said it
5. If you are around water.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor.
This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because
each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team hen
using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 8/2016 University of Wisconsin
Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7912