When a TENS machine is turned on, it sends small electrical impulses to the affected area of the body, which feel like a tingling sensation. This helps to reduce pain signals that reach the spinal cord and brain, which can help relieve pain and relax muscles. A transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) sends electrical pulses through the skin to activate the body's natural painkillers. These electrical pulses can release endorphins and other substances to stop pain signals in the brain.
TENS machines work best when used during activities such as walking, doing tasks, or exercising. When you use a TENS machine, you'll experience a painless tingling or buzzing sensation, which can help block or suppress pain messages. Usually, two pads with electrodes are placed on either side of the area of the most severe pain. This is done so that the TENS sensation covers the painful area.
If you plan to try TENS during delivery, your midwife or local branch of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) should be able to find one to rent. You may need to try other pain medications and treatments before using the TENS machine or using it together with other pain medications. The costs of having a TENS unit are the TENS unit, replacement patches and batteries as you need them. While you may have to try some settings on your TENS machine before finding the best one for you, using a TENS machine has no real side effects.
TENS machines don't vary much in quality, so it shouldn't matter too much if you buy a relatively simple and inexpensive device.