The Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit is an electric stimulation device that excites sensory nerves on painful areas of the body and interrupts the pain signals that go to the brain. Electrical pulses are delivered to the desired body part by wires that lead to electrodes attached to the skin through sticky pads. This effect also causes the body to release endorphins that act as natural pain relievers. TENS unit pads are an accompaniment of every TENS machine and have a finite lifespan.
What Are TENS Unit Electrode Pads?
TENS unit pads or electrodes are primarily used to deliver a desired electrical impulse directly to the body. These pads are placed on the skin and have a sticky conductive gel that allows them to stick to the desired place. Their functionality and efficiency reduce with time, hence the need for replacement at some point.
Purchasing TENS unit replacement pads is a tricky exercise that requires a thorough comparison. Knowing the kind of fitting that offers extreme compatibility with the TENS machine is crucial.
Guidelines When Buying Electrode Pads
It is important to do your research and understand your target pain areas when purchasing replacement pads for TENS units that are ideal for you. Here are a few things to consider to ensure that you make the most appropriate purchase.
Check Fitting Type
It is essential that you are aware of what type of connection your TENS machine uses. This will ensure that you narrow down your search and buy a product that best fits your machine.
Choose Shape and Size
There are various shapes and sizes available, including square, round, butterfly, and strips. It is advisable to get a shape that best suits your needs. You can also consider buying a combination package if your TENS device utilizes multiple areas.
Determine the Frequency of Use
When you buy electrodes in bulk, you are more likely to get a better price. If you use your TENS device more often, you may consider purchasing and storing more pads for future use. Determining how frequently you use your TENS device will help you know how many pads you should buy.
There are useful tips that you can use to prolong the lifespan of the electrodes. It is important to read the manufacturer's guidelines before taking any actions to avoid damaging the pads. Here are a few recommendations on how to care for your electrodes.
Here is what to do when applying these pads:
Make sure the area of application is dry and clean with skin prep wipes. Electrodes should be applied only on unbroken skin.
After opening and removing the electrode from packaging, make sure you keep the original packaging.
Ensure that you lift the edge of the electrode when peeling away from the release sheet instead of pulling it up by the wires.
You can use a few drops of water if the pads do not stick or they seem dry.
Finally, after applying the electrode to the treatment area, hold it down lightly to ensure that it has maximum contact with the skin.
Follow these steps to remove the pads:
After peeling off the electrode, use a non-alcoholic wipe to wipe off electrodes or rinse with cold water.
The sticky side should face up to ensure it does not adhere to anything; place it on the clear sheet it arrived in.
Ensure that you store the electrodes in a cool and dry place to prevent permanent adverse effects on the gel.
Do adequate research on the various options of pads available. Customer reviews and feedback can give you a good idea about some of the best products on the market. Reading the manufacturer's details and specifications will provide you with more information on what you are buying.
How Long Do TENS Unit Electrodes Last?
The lifespan of electrodes is dependent on several factors, as detailed below.
Quality of the Pad
The make of the electrode pad determines how fast it will undergo wear and tear or how fast it may get torn. Expensive TENS unit electrodes made from longer-lasting material tend to withstand regular therapy sessions compared to cheaper pads. The notion of paying for what you get is a critical point of concern.
The Number of Sessions Done
The number of times you use your pads determines their longevity. If you use your pad multiple times in a day or several sessions in a week, your pad will wear out faster. This is in comparison to someone using their machine one to three hours a week.
Number of Pads You Have
Interchanging pads one after the other helps keep the pads moist, especially for people doing several sessions in a day. Rotating between two or more pads reduces wear and tear, ensuring they last longer.
Prepping the Skin Before Use
Making sure the skin surface you are going to apply the pad to is clean helps maintain the condition of the pad. The presence of oils and cream on these surfaces limits the pads' ability to stick, altering impulse delivery.
Cleaning the Pads After Use
Cleaning pads of any residue either by washing or wiping helps maintain their ability to stick. Keeping pads unclean attracts an unhealthy environment for impulse delivery.
Proper Pad Storage
Storing clean pads in an airtight environment reduces the instances of breakdown and tear that result from poor storage. Poor storage, in this case, involves storing pads together with sharp objects that may scratch sensitive parts of the pad affecting impulse delivery. These airtight storage cases prevent light, heat, and humidity for longer-lasting pads.
Maintaining Proper Pad Moisture
After using a pad, it is necessary to not only clean but also to apply the correct amount of electrode gel. This reduces instances of the pad sticking to other sticky substances in the same storage compartment.
The lifespan of an electrode pad is 12 to 15 times of use. The TENS machine's efficiency, however, is dependent on the condition of the pouch used to store it.
Do I Need to Use Electrode Gel With My Pads?
Unlike over-the-counter medicine or prescription medicine, TENS unit pads can be used repeatedly without the need for replacement. Over time, however, they may lose adhesiveness due to simple wear and tear. Debris from the skin in the form of oil, cream and dirt make the pads less sticky after several sessions. Reduced adhesiveness may mean you have to replace your pads. You can also choose to make them sticky again.
We recommend that you first make the TENS unit pads sticky again before deciding to buy new ones. Electrode gels are a perfect solution to improving the stickiness of TENS unit pads if thorough cleaning does not improve their stickiness. Apply this product to both electrode pads to uniformly transfer electrical pulses for effective muscle stimulation.
Electrode gels improve the lifespan of electrode pads up to 20-30 times. Before applying the gel, it is recommended that you clean the pad first with a washcloth to wipe off any debris. Other than electrode gels, there are also electrolyte sprays. Depending on personal preferences, whether you choose to buy the gel or the spray, both improve the TENS machine's efficiency.
What Pads Are Suitable If I Have Sensitive Skin or Latex Allergies?
Most conventional TENS unit pads include latex or acidic ingredients in the adhesive gel. These two components tend to affect patients with sensitive skin. Individuals with sensitive skin often experience skin irritation when using latex pads. As a result, latex-free hypoallergenic electrodes are available. The hypoallergenic pads provide mild adhesion due to the reinforcing fiber that maintains structural integrity.
Other Health Concerns
It is important to check the product description for FDA clearance. Some pads are cleared for over-the-counter use while others are not. You can check for FDA clearance on the company's website to confirm.
For hygienic reasons, it is recommended that you not share your pads with others. They are clearly made for single-patient use and are most effective this way.