How to place TENS machine pads

Many new mums and sufferers of arthritis and muscle pain swear by the TENS machine to relieve pain without the need for drugs. The rather long-winded “transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation machine” consists of small pads – usually four – that you stick onto your skin near the affected area, or to the back in the case of pregnant women entering labour. Small electric pulses are then sent through the machine to the pads and you can increase or decrease the strength of the pulses according to your requirements.


Make sure the skin on which the pads are to be applied is clean, dry and free of abrasions and cuts. Check the batteries are working and test the machine is working before you stick the pads on. Hold the pads with your fingers and gently increase the power until you feel the electrical pulses coming through. Don’t put the pads together when testing.

Take the film covers off the pads and stick them either side of – not on – the painful area, being careful not to put them any closer than three centimetres to each other. Usually only two are needed if you are targeting one specific area. If you are using them to help diminish labour pain, place two on either side of the spine, at equal distances from it. Don’t put them directly on the spine, however.

New TENS machine pads will have fresh, sticky gel-like adhesive on them, but if you are reusing the machine, you will probably have to replace the sticky parts of the pads with new ones. You can usually buy replacement pads in the same place you bought the machine itself. You can also apply a conductive gel to the skin first to help improve the connection and use a belt or strap to keep them on if you are worried they could come unstuck.


Start at low power then gradually increase it to find a level that is both safe and effective.


Don't put the pads directly on the spine.

Don't touch the pads together.

Things You'll Need

  • A TENS machine
  • New pads
  • Conductive gel
  • A strap or belt
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About the Author

Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.