What is it?

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) is a non-invasive method to alleviate (chronic) pain without the use of medication.
The device works according to two theories about pain:

  1. When you hit your head against a cupboard, it can really hurt. If you start to rub your head, the pain does down. The rubbing closes the 'door' to the pain stimulation and only lets the more pleasant sensation through. The weak TENS pulses prevent the pain stimuli from reaching the brain in order to alleviate the pain.
  2. When you hit your head against a cupboard, your body also makes certain substances so that the pain does not feel so bad. The strong TENS pulses make the muscles contract. This makes the body produce a lot of its own pain-reducing substances. In general, TENS therapy has a relaxing effect, which also leads to extra production of endorphines.

When is it indicated?

TENS can be used to alleviate various acute and chronic types of pain, for example:

  • joint pain (e.g. knee or hip arthrosis)
  • chronic pain originating in the spinal column
  • Degenerative disorders of the muscles, tendons and/or bones
  • tension headaches
  • muscular pain
  • amputation pain/phantom pain

TENS cannot be used in specific situations, for example:

  • You have an implanted 'demand' pacemaker, defibrillator or another active implant.
  • Pain with an unknown cause
  • Epilepsy
  • During pregnancy


See the leaflet below for more information about:

  • how the TENS device works
  • the device‚Äôs different programmes
  • practical tips

Centres and specialist areas

Pain Centre

Latest publication date: 11/08/2021