Do TENS Units Have Side Effects?

Side effects of TENS Units (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) are not very common. Generally speaking, TENS Units are considered as a safe and well-tolerated pain treatment option.

In the table below, you may find the common side effects of a tens machine, and what to do in case you experience any of the side effects.

TENS Unit (TENS or TNS) Side Effects

Side Effect Possible Causes What to Do
Skin irritation or burning Not cleaning your skin properly, not using gel
  • Always clean you skin before applying a tens machine
  • Ensure that pads are sticky enough
  • Change the position of pads
Increased pain, muscle twitching or muscle soreness High Intensity Lower the intensity level
Skin allergy Gel Change the conductive gel
Common Side Effects of TENS Units

TENS therapy side effects are actually very minimal. Most doctors will warn that if you are experiencing side effects, you should really stop the use and check your machine. TENS machine side effects are not very common. You should make sure you aren't using the machine on too high of a setting or too often, and you should never use a machine if you're pregnant as side effects to the fetus are unknown.

Skin Irritation

In some cases of overuse, some mild side effects have occurred, most commonly skin irritation. If you often apply your TENS machine and/or don't properly use it (either by not cleaning your skin, not using gel, etc.) then you can cause yourself a skin irritation in that area. TENS machines are indeed intended to be used long-term, but you should remove the pads frequently.

Muscle Twitching, Soreness or Pain

If you experience muscle twitching, you likely are setting the TENS machine too high. Doing this can also lead to muscle pain and intense soreness. When you  put your TENS machine on, make sure it starts at zero. You should raise the setting until you get a strong tingling sensation. If your muscles begin to twitch you have turned it up too high.

Tens Device - Warnings

Who Can Use the TENS Machines?

Almost anyone experiencing pain from an outstanding injury can make use of a TENS machine. It's not recommended to use a TENS machine if you are pregnant, though. Make sure you are using the machine properly and never use it set too high. When you put the machine on, make sure it is on zero and slowly work your way up.

As long as you don't experience any side effects, you should be safe to continue use of your TENS machine.

Cautions When Using Tens Machines

A TENS machine is basically an electrotherapy pain relief device, and you should use it sparingly. Ask your doctor how many times you should use the machine, for some it will be daily and others weekly. Don't overuse your machine, you should change how often you use it based on your injury, your pain levels, and other factors.

Always make sure your TENS machine has full batteries before activating it. Turn both knobs down all the way before turning it on and make sure to clean your skin first with rubbing alcohol. Make sure your skin is dry and apply gel to both electrodes. You should use a sticky pad to hold the electrodes in place, do not hold them with your hands or duct tape.

Lastly, if you experience any side effects make sure to discontinue use and ask your doctor.



Our Pick

Under $200



TENS and EMS/PMS Support - Dual Channel & 12 Modes

More about TENS Units

What Is the Purpose of A TENS Unit?

TENS stands for "transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator machine." Its purpose is to override the pain receptors in the brain to help those suffering from an injury.

How Does A TENS Machine Work?

A TENS machine works to override the brain's pain receptors by sending multiple stimulating pulses. The TENS machine is attached to the painful area and these pulses are sent across the surface of the skin, along the nerve strands. This process stimulates the cells and helps decrease and prevent pain from reaching your brain. TENS machines can also help your body produce “Endorphins,” which are natural pain killers.

How To Use A TENS Unit At Home?

TENS machines are rather simple to use. First off, you need to make sure there is a full battery in the machine. Second, figure out which knob does what. The first one should change the strength of the electrical signal, while the second changes the speed making it faster or slower.

Next, clean your skin with rubbing alcohol and let it dry before applying the electrodes. While it's drying, put the gel on the bottom of the electrodes, it will help the electrical signals reach the nerves.

Finally, attach the electrodes to your skin using a sticky patch or medical tape. Cover the electrode fully so it will stay in place, if you can't reach the area, ask someone for assistance. Once in place, hook the connectors to the ends and turn on the TENS unit. As you turn it on, slowly adjust the settings. Always start with your TENS machine on the lowest setting possible and raise it as needed. Your skin should feel tingly.


Side By Side TENS Units Comparison

Pick the TENS Units you want to evaluate and compare specs, ratings, prices