The Tens or “Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation” machine delivers an electrical current via electrodes attached by pads to the skin over the pain site. The tens machine pads form the actual connection to the patient and it is important to understand how they should be placed, how to handle them, when to replace them and what size pads should be necessary for the pain relief you require. Any procedure is only as strong as its weakest link, and the correct use of the Tens machine pads are often the least understood and therefore the most poorly managed part of the Tens pain relief system.

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What are the Tens machine pads?

The Tens machine pads contain the electrodes that transmit the actual electrical current into your skin. They are attached to the electronic Tens machine with wires. The one end of the wire fits into the machine and the other end of each wire fits into the connection on the electrodes in the pads. The electrode pads come in different sizes suitable for different parts of the body. Trunk and back electrodes are larger than those necessary for ankles or wrists. The cloth-backed Tens machine electrode pads are more durable than the cheaper foam backed ones. The “pad” is the part that is attached to the body with a gel that helps to conduct the current more efficiently.

How to prepare the skin to place the Tens machine pads:

First, take special note of a few things you should never do concerning the placing of the pads:

  • Never place the pads near your eyes or mouth, on the front or side of your neck or across your brain over your head
  • Never place them over any metal implants
  • Never place electrode pads on damaged skin
  • Never place electrodes on areas of skin where there is no sensation – you will not know when the current is sufficient or not.

Wash the skin area with mild soap, rinse off all soap and dry thoroughly.

This is very important because:

  • Clean dry skin will transmit the electrical stimuli more efficiently
  • It will decrease the chance of skin irritation
  • It will extend the life of your electrodes and pads.
  • Rub the gel into the side of the pads that will be attached to the skin

The Placement of the tens machine pads:

The actual placement of the tens machine pads is very important. Your Doctor should help you with the initial placement. The Tens machine comes with a detailed manual which also explains about the best placement of the electrode pads. Most machines are dual placement machines having 4 electrode pads. The normal rule of thumb is to place the pads near to the source of the pain. If you are using four electrodes, then they should be placed on the outer four corners of the painful area. If you have a two-electrode machine, place the electrodes mid way over the painful area. Electrodes should be removed and moved to a slightly different skin area every 12 hours to prevent skin damage and allow the skin to breathe.

Care of your Tens Machine Electrode Pads:

Before removing the electrodes,

  • Switch off the device
  • Disconnect the wires

Remove the electrode from the skin by gently peeling it off from the edge and replace the electrode liner.

If the electrodes become damp and sweaty, allow them to dry in a refrigerator with the adhesive side up until it feels sticky again.

If the electrode gel is dry, add a few drops of water and allow it to stand for a few minutes till it becomes sticky once more.
When storing the electrodes, always replace the protective liner.

Replacing your Tens Machine pads: The machine pads are disposable and will need renewing from time to time. On an average, when being used for daily or continuous pain relief, you will need two sets of new electrode pads and a new battery each month. Rather replace with good quality electrodes for the best current distribution. Poor quality electrodes may not deliver the required current effectively. New electrodes come with a liner, make sure you remove it before use, but keep the liners for storing the electrodes when not in use.

It is important to handle your Tens machine electrode pads with care and make sure they are fitted and connected correctly for the best pain relief results. You can experiment a bit with the actual positioning of your electrode pads to get the maximum efficiency from your machine. It would be advisable to have a spare set of electrode pads available at all times.

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