If you’ve ever thought it would be nice to have your own TENS machine, Australia-based Evomed sells a lightweight, portable, inexpensive model called Painmate that doesn’t require the awkward wires used in some other models. While there are many other wireless over-the-counter TENS devices available in the U.S., you can’t buy the Painmate yet because it does not have FDA clearance.
If you’ve ever had physical therapy or gone to a chiropractor, odds are you’ve used or been offered treatment with a TENS machine. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation sends fast electrical impulses through your skin to nerves at specific locations, blocking them from sending slower pain signals to your brain. When I had two rotator cuff surgeries, I came home each time with a portable TENS machine attached and used it at first with pain medication and later by itself to manage the post-surgical pain.
In healthcare professional’s offices, TENS machines are usually rolled on a stand to wherever you’re sitting or lying down. The professional attaches small gel pads strategically around your pain point: usually four pads to surround the area. Each pad has a wire that attaches to the actual TENS machine that generates the signal, with adjustments for impulse strength, speed, and sometimes patterns. The portable units I took home from the hospital were about the size of a deck of playing cards and had the same set up with wires and pads. Usually, a TENS session lasts 10 to 20 minutes, which can also be set with the machine.
The Painmate, which is about the size of an average man’s hand, has a flexible pad with a replaceable battery in a module in the center and gel pads attached to the bottom. According to EvoMed, the CR2032 coin-sized battery and the gel pads should last for about 50 20-minute sessions before they need replacing. The Painmate sells for about $50 Australian ($38 U.S.).
Unlike professional or many much more expensive TENS machines or devices, the Painmate doesn’t have pulse rate or pulse pattern adjustments, but you can set the pulse intensity to 15 different levels — to get the best results you adjust the intensity to just under the level at which it’s uncomfortable. The Painmate automatically turns off after 20 minutes.