Painaustralia is Australia’s leading pain advocacy body, working to improve the quality of life of people living with pain. They also advocate on behalf of families and carers. They aim to minimise the social and economic burden of pain on individuals and the community.

In 2015, Painaustralia developed a TENS Fact Sheet to advise their members and all people living with pain. ActivLife provided academic and financial assistance with this endeavour.

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. TENS therapy is delivered via a TENS machine. Within health circles the machines are also called medical devices or electro therapy units.

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

The first TENS machine 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.

Effective TENS therapy is so much more than just a machine

Effective therapy comprises correct diagnosis of the medical condition, combined with an overall management program, including:

  • TENS advice and guidance based on clinical evidence
  • TENS machine functions based on medical science
  • Correct positioning of the electrodes (or pads)
  • Concise, easy to follow TENS treatment guidelines

The 3 main functions of TENS therapy are:

  • Sensory nerve stimulation
  • Cell membrane stimulation
  • Motor nerve stimulation

Medical purpose of these 3 functions

  1. Sensory nerve stimulation (TENS) - for fast and lasting pain relief and relaxation; mechanisms include pain gating and release of endorphins, encephalin and serotonin
  2. Cell membrane stimulation (ECS) - opening cell walls to improve circulation and hasten musculoskeletal repair
  3. Motor nerve stimulation (EMS) - used to prevent muscle atrophy and strengthen specific muscle after injury or surgery; also for pelvic floor muscles to prevent incontinence

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].

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.

Instructions for TENS Use

ActivLife provides extremely helpful information in our User Guides and on this website. Information is specific to each medical purpose and includes:

  • Safety information
  • Placement of pads
  • Function or mode to choose
  • Power setting to choose
  • Length of time to apply
  • How often to repeat the therapy program

Components and assembly

You can wear our device 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.

Cheap TENS

"Cheap" TENS machines are sometimes available in supermarkets, pop-up stores or on eBay. Usually they are not registered with the TGA, are very poorly designed and/or manufactured and quite often they have inadequate instructions for proper use.

Please choose your TENS machine very carefully - it is a medical device not a gadget!