Side Effects of Overusing a TENS Machine

A TENS machine -- trancutaneous electrical nerve stimulator machine -- overrides pain receptors in the brain. When used properly, side effects of TENS machines are generally mild, even with extended use. If you experience these negative effects with use of your TENS unit, discontinue use and see your health care provider.

A woman is using a TENS machine. (Image: Aykut Erdogdu/iStock/Getty Images)


The constant pulsing of electrical stimulation from the TENS machine can cause pain and muscle twitching, particularly if you adjust the intensity too high. This may also cause muscle soreness. Lower the intensity until you feel a strong tingling sensation -- without muscle twitching -- if this occurs.

Skin Irritation

TENS units are recommended for long-term use, but the pads should be periodically removed to assess your skin. Cleaning your skin before you apply the pads will help the pads stick and appropriately disperse the current in the area underneath the pads, decreasing your risk of skin irritation. Periodically changing the position of the pads will also help protect your skin.


Talk to your doctor before using a TENS if you are pregnant -- the effects of the vibrating impulse on the unborn fetus are unknown. Do not sleep with your TENS unit on, submerge it in water or wear it while driving. TENS machines should not be used on the skin near the eyes, temples or across the head, or if you have a pacemaker.

Load comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.