How to Use a Tens Machine for Horses

Written by roberta kingsley
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How to Use a Tens Machine for Horses
(two horses... image by Saskia Massink from

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. It is used for short-term musculoskeletal healing after an injury or surgery and for prolonged healing after a serious trauma or for arthritis. It is a viable pain control treatment alternative to drugs. The TENS machine for horses is different than the TENS machine for humans. However, the basic principle of both is similar. Electrical pulses are sent out via a patch on the skin to stimulate neurons in different muscle groups, thereby hiding the pain of the injury. While some debate the effectiveness of TENS, many horse owners rely on it.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Brush and curry comb your horse to get the dust off. If your horse has a nice shaggy winter coat, you could shave the spots where you will place the electrode patches.

  2. 2

    Test the battery pack to ensure that the unit is charged and ready. Turn off the unit when applying the electrodes to the affected area. Use the gel included in the kit to coat the ends of the electrodes. Just dip the ends in it. The patches must cover the end of each electrode. Put the patches in new spots for each new treatment.

  3. 3

    Dial the control knobs carefully and slowly, searching for the right amount of electricity. The horse should feel a tingling sensation but no pain. You will see the muscles contract but not stiffen. This is where it would help to have a trained person to show you.

Tips and warnings

  • While it is legal for anyone to own and operate a TENS machine, it is recommended that you spend some time learning how to use the machine from someone who knows it well.
  • Use the machine in a calm, quiet place, like a clean stall. Quiet music might help to facilitate treatment.
  • Watch the horse closely for signs of discomfort, like head bobbing or tail twitching.
  • Dial down the electricity until the animal is comfortable.
  • Horses normally have a high threshold to pain, but the goal is to confuse the original pain with a comfortable sensation.
  • When you hit the sweet spot, the animal will be calm and relaxed.
  • Never place electrodes near the horse's eyes.
  • The electrodes should also not be put at the base of the brain or throat.
  • Do not place electrodes on the horse's neck near the carotid or jugular veins, as they might interrupt blood flow that is essential in the healing process.
  • Do not let water come in contact with the electrodes or battery pack.
  • Never use them on broken skin.
  • Watch the areas of skin where the patches are and reposition them if there is any sign of irritation.

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