What is TENS?

TENS is an electro therapy - and one of the physical therapies used by physiotherapists, pain management specialists, massage therapists and rehabilitation specialists.

The acronym TENS is short for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (T.E.N.S.).

The first TENS unit was invented by Australian physiotherapist, Mr Jim Lamers in 1971. Jim was the founder of our company and his research is incorporated into the design of all our current day products.

Jim and his daughter, Robyn, first used the term "TENS" in 1972. The rest of the world has since adopted the acronym - and TENS has become a generic term for both the therapy and the devices.

TENS therapy

TENS therapy actually offers 3 different types of electrical stimulation; each is for a different purpose:

  • Sensory nerves are stimulated to relieve pain and foster relaxation and well-being; this is the original TENS
  • Motor nerves are stimulated to strengthen muscle fibre, reactivate motor nerve memory and improve circulation; called EMS or electrical muscle stimulation
  • Cell membranes are stimulated to open cells, improve circulation of blood, breakdown scar tissue, remove waste and promote healing; called ECS for electrical cell stimulation

Many people talk of a TENS machine, and they may mean a device for pain management or they may mean a device that will offer both pain management and muscle strengthening.

Very few device manufacturers talk of ECS for circulation and healing - ActivLife is the obvious exception to this.


Components of a TENS kit

The TENS machine itself is a small, electronic medical device - a control unit. In addition to the control unit, you will also require a connecting lead and electrodes [also called pads or patches].

Some machines call themselves "wireless". Just be aware that there is still a wire - between the pads - and so you won't be able to separate those pads more than a few centimetres.

A control unit - the TENS machine

A connecting lead

Electrodes or pads


How to use a TENS machine

  • The control unit attaches to the lead, which connects to the pads
  • The pads are placed on the relevant part of the body and the unit is turned ON
  • Two pads are necessary to close the electrical circuit
  • There are different modes of operation and different power settings to choose from
  • The whole ActivLife system is very small, simple to use and battery powered

An ActivLife TENS machine can be used outside the clinical environment - by private individuals, on a daily basis.

You can wear our units anywhere, at anytime - across a wide range of locations on your body. You can leave it on for as long as you need it and no-one else need ever know you are wearing it.


Instructions for TENS Use

ActivLife provides the most helpful information in our User Guides and on this website.

  • Placement of pads
  • Program or mode to choose
  • Power setting to choose
  • Length of time to apply
  • How often to repeat the therapy