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Does the TENS Machine Only Work for Back Labour?

Does the TENS Machine Only Work for Back Labour?

The TENS Machine Is Effective For Contractions Felt Anywhere In The Body.

People often think because the electrodes are placed on your back they’ll only help for back contractions, however the TENS machine works on pain felt anywhere in your body. 

I myself felt contractions in my lower stomach, back and thighs and as they are all different types and levels of pain it’s difficult to say if it helped one area more than the other. But something you may notice when using the TENS machine is if you forget to boost is that you very quickly realise just how effective the TENS is during the contraction when boost wasn’t used – I found that each area was significantly more painful when I forgot to boost than when I was boosting, so for me it was effective for the pain felt in my back and even for the pain I could feel in my thighs.

"The TENS Is For Your Brain, Not Your Back"

If you're familiar with how the TENS machine works, you may have heard this saying before. Just as it sounds, the TENS machine works with your brain, not the body part where you place the TENS electrodes.

The TENS machine works on the 'Pain Gate Control Theory' which is where they have determined that your brain has a sort of 'gate' in the pathway to receiving pain signals. When something causes your body pain, your body will send pain signals to your brain, and they will enter your brain and that's when you begin to feel the pain. In circumstances where you are feeling a lot of pain, your brain is being flooded with large amounts of pain signals and at some point the brain closes the 'gate' and no longer allows any more pain signals in, any pain signals that are not let in will not be perceived by you as pain - this happens when your brain is at it's capacity.

Now, enter the TENS machine. This will stimulate your nerves which will also cause nerve signals to rush to your brain. As our brain prioritises nerve signals over pain signals, more nerve signals will be let into the brain and as our brain can only process so much information at a time, it will essentially close the 'gate' without letting in all of the pain signals. Meaning your perception of the pain will be far lower than without the TENS, when there was no nerve activity taking up a lot of your brains capacity to process the pain signals.

In summary, as the TENS machine works with nerve signals, which can generally originate from any place on your body, the location of your pain will likely not cause a difference in the TENS machines ability to limit your pain.

What If The Pain Is Too Strong And The TENS Doesn't Work?


As labour goes on (or if you start experiencing back labour), your pain levels will likely increase; luckily, the TENS machine has a lot of levels so that you can increase the power output. However, your perception of the TENS machine's success may lessen as your pain increases.  The TENS machine doesn't take away all of your pain; it just reduces it, so as your pain increases throughout labour, you'll still likely feel that it will just be less than you would with no TENS.

However, regardless of how much pain you're in, the TENS machine will still be flooding your brain with nerve signals and stopping some pain signals from entering so you can't feel those pain signals. 

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