TENS Machines

I just wandered if anyone has tried a TENS machine for migraine or headache relief? I have chronic migraine and I'm back to cutting out painkillers/triptans completely to clear my system and then sticking to a max of 2 days a week. So for me that leaves 5 days of trying to live with low level to moderate migraine pain somehow.

If anyone uses a machine where is the best placement for the pads and is there any particular frequency that helps?


23 Replies

  • Hi,

    I'm permanently plugged into my TENS machine for my migraines. I put one of my shoulder and one of my neck - If you click on the link below I've actually written about how I use it and shown some pictures of where I place it - I promise this isn't a shamless plug for a blog (can't stand it when people do that) but I also link to where you can buy them online etc & describe how a hospital physio told me how & how not to use them. They wont stop your migraine (though sometimes if I'm getting a muscles spasms they can be really helpful if I put it on in time) but I really find they can lower my pain - and are good for Tensions Headaches and muscle ache if that contributes to your pain. It's often a case of just experimenting with them to get the settings right - start off low and slowly turn up till you find the right settings. Mine is a real comfort - my mum and sister also use them too! Hope helps you too!

    Here is the link with more detailed info. Ask me any more questions if anything doesn't make sense.


  • hi Blueskies

    I tried a TENS machine a few years ago for chronic facial / shoulder pain but I also get migraine. It helped ease the shoulder pain really well when I applied it to the shoulder areas. Didn't have much luck with the face though, possibly because my face was really sensitive to any sort of stimulation at the time. But I had been told by pain clinic to try it on my face over parts of the trigeminal nerve, especially where I get bad migraine pain - this just seemed to make the pain worse in those areas. When I have a migraine headache I can't bear anything on my head other than heat!

    However, it's definitely a bit of trial and error to begin with. I was lucky enough to be able to try one for a few weeks by borrowing one from the hospital, and I bought one from the internet after that.

    I also had to buy anti-allergy electrodes because the standard ones were itchy but they weren't too expensive. Found that a bit of surgical tape applied over the electrodes helped to keep them in place. Oh, and rechargable batteries saved me a small fortune.

    I've got out of the habit of using my machine, and probably don't need it at the moment, but it got me through a long bad patch, so i would recommend trying it.

    Just remembered, I also used one when in labour (reasonably successfully). My pharmacist gave me a leaflet & I was able to hire one for a month- this might be a good way of trying one out before you buy one.

    Good luck.

  • Hi there

    I'm also chronic and use a TENS machine, I find it really helpful. It doesn't stop the migraine, but it is very soothing and does seem to reduce the pain a little and definitely does wonders to the muscles. If I go to bed with a migraine, I pop it on and often doze off with it.

    I bought a TENS dual machine which has 4 pads and a variety of settings. I tend to only use two pads at the top of my back on my shoulder blades. I bought mine from Lloyds Pharmacy online - if you are chronic you will be eligible for VAT exemption on the machine and the pad replacements if you buy it in this way. I think mine was around £30 with extra pads. I have found it to have been a really good investment.

    VictoriaS's advice is good :)

    Best wishes

  • Thanks for your replies everyone. Your blog was a great help Victoria and all the tips and advice from teadrinker & Saffron bread. Thanks. I do get very tender around my shoulder blade when I'm getting a migraine so that alone should help.

    I did try an expensive machine years ago called an Transcutanous Spinal Electro-analgesia m/c (by Acticare) which they advertised as both an acute & preventative treatment. I tried it everyday for a month but it didn't help at all. Luckily they gave money back if returned within 30days.

    It's a good point about anti-allergy electrodes teadrinker. I do get an allergic reaction to the old fashion elastoplasts and adhesives used on pads, so it will be well worth me buying the ant-allergy one.

    I think I'll go for just the 2-pad one from Lloyds as that seems to be reasonably priced.

    I have gone 21 days without painkillers/triptans now and it hasn't made any difference at all so I think maybe I just do have chronic daily migraine, not related to painkiller usage. It's probably still wise for me to keep painkiller use as low as possible tho and if a TENS machine can help take the edge off the pain it will be worth a try. I'll report back and let everyone know how it goes for me.

    Thanks again.

  • Hello, I've been using a GammaCore device (Vegus Nerve Stimulation similar to Tens) for two months and I think there's a slight improvement tho I'm also trying two other things 1) 31 botox injections in my head/neck now available on NHS. 2) Also I have bought tinted glasses for tv watching and computer screens as I've learned that the imperceptable flickering of screens can cause the over excitation in the brain that causes headache. You need to get tested at the opticians to get the right colour for you.. These are not available on NHS. They cost me £350. I have also cut down my tv watching time drastically. My doctor tells me that it can take a long time to get opiates and triptans out of your system so do research this more so that you are dealing with facts. Three weeks may not be enough. Other things that are helpful are a product called 024, a camphor based painkiller which I rub on my forehead (protect your eyes) available in UK from Matrix.com and the Migra-Cap, a gel cap I keep in the freezer and put on when I'm at home. The intense cold is actually quite soothing once you get used to it and it blocks out some of the pain whilst you're waiting for your meds to work.

  • Blue skies, i have chronic migraines plus load of spinal damage. Iv also been told to stop all migraine pills and painkillers to see if there is a reduction, however to leave it for 8 weeks, as it can reduce migraines by 50%.

    Know this may be a silly question but do you guys put any of these electrodes on your face or temples?

  • Jacob 2 weeks seems to be average time to get off opiates.

    Think im lucky im on day 5 and starting to feel normal apart from my usual migraine!

  • Hi Kali, from what I remember you must never put the electrodes anywhere on your head! I did try the TENS machine but for me I found it made the pain worse.

    This year I stopped taking triptans all together for 6 months and found my migraines halved which for me proved that the triptans were causing rebound migraines i.e. the triptan treats my original migraine but triggers another migraine.... The usual advice is to try a different triptan but I have tried all of them now and they all give me rebound migraines.

    I am struggling at the moment with medication 'overuse' headache/migraine though. I've read that any painkiller with codeine or caffeine is likely to cause MOH and I've been taking alka seltzer XS on an almost daily basis for the last 2 years which has caffeine in it. I know what I have to do.... stop taking painkillers for 6-8 weeks or until the daily headache/low grade migraine goes away but I am struggling with that one at the moment. Not because of any 'addiction' problems, just because it's hard to have any kind of life when the pain is so bad.

    Wishing you all the best with stopping the painkillers/triptans.

  • I try to remember to use my TENS unit daily. Although nothing but triptans work to relieve my Migraines, the TENS greatly alleviates the "hump" on my shoulder for the muscle being in constant spasm. I put the second electrode on the neck artery under my ear. I hope it works for you.

  • I have a skin mate non surgical face lift machine which gives off electrical pulses. I presume the same as a tens machine. I have just started putting the prongs on my head and around where the migraine pain is. I just thought I would give it a try and it has helped. q10 mins twice a day plus the daith piercing and I'm almost able to live a normal life after years of drugs and giving up all known triggers. I just hope it lasts

  • Hi my Neurologist recommended I try a Cephaly machine. It's a tens machine specifically for migraine you use it on your forehead. I've read mixed reviews on this site. It's not available on NHS but costs £250 from the company. If it's doesn't help after 8 weeks you can get £50 back.

    I haven't tried it yet as I'm in a bit of a clear phase but will if I revert to my usual pain.

    Good luck


  • Jackiesutton ...I have a cefaly, stage 3 helps you sleep but i used it for 3 months and didn't do anything for my migraine it actually gave me jaw pain which highlighted that i had an issue with my jaw x

  • Thanks Cally. I've still got the cephaly as an option if I get desperate. I'm doing quite well at the moment. I've lost 2 stone by eating very few carbs especially cutting out bread and pasta. I'm feeling much better with mainly controllable head pains. However my neck is super painful. Causing me to sleep really badly and some headaches, not migraines. Any date for your op yet? X

  • Gawd you are so like me !! I seen consultant yesterday and he doesn't want to do the op as he thinks it will make me worse😭 I'm getting impressions for cerezen ear implants on Friday, take a look at this. I know 2 people who have had it and their migraines /neck pain/ back of head pain are gone 😀. It has a money back guarantee so win win😀x

  • Wow it's something new everyday. Keep me up to date, sounds hopeful. Good luck xx

  • Well done on the weight loss😀 i bought a special pillow for my neck, it's like a wedge with a raised edge that tucks between your shoulder and chin it definitely helps 😀 x

  • Wait, if it doesn't work after 8 weeks you only get £50 back? What a rip off!

  • Sorry no I typed that wrong. If it doesn't work after 8 weeks, or some time limit, you get your money back except for £50. Oops

  • Haha! That makes much more sense.

  • you get £200 from the £249 after two months (the £49 is kept for paying disposal)

  • Hi folks! I have chronic daily migraine as well..but am doing better this month. I gave up triptans and codeine and ibuprophen this winter after being told I was in rebound. The first week was awful but I am managing better now. My doctor told me the longer you have been on the drugs (21 yrs for me) the longer it takes to detox from them. He told me to expect a good 6 mths detoxing..and up to a year.

    Thank you for the Tens advice! I use gel athletic freezer packs on my face as they are cold and soft and easily mold to the contoures of my face. My brother has a need for the Tens machine so I will get one for him today.

    I get bad skin pain from head to foot in the summer when it is Sooo hot and humid and can't tolerate anything touching my skin. I went off meds in early January so hopefully by July things like the cutaneous allodynia will have improved - even my hair hurts!!

    I bought glasses with a special tint that breaks up the light waves so I can be out and about in the house when I am sick. Bright light is one of my triggers so I wear these daily for watching tv, working on computer etc. I also wear them in stores and offices with those fluorescent lights..they work well!! Mine are called Theraspecs and if they don't work for you they will take them back. I also use them if I am feeling on edge, or anxious as they filter excessive light and calm me down.


  • Massage is very helpful and accupuncture

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