4 white tens pads on a woman's lower back

TENS and Your Postpartum Recovery 

Many people forget to consider and plan for childbirth recovery.  It’s much more than stocking a freezer and washing baby clothes.

The first few weeks and months following the birth of your beautiful baby can be physically demanding as you recover from birth and learn new skills to take care of your baby. You may have:

  • Delivered by C-Section.
  • Had a painful or prolonged vaginal birth.
  • Be suffering from low back pain or aching legs.
  • Be suffering from breast pain or shoulder pain due to long breastfeeding sessions.
  • Developed new aches and pains due to extensive bending and cradling of your baby.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a small portable, hand-held device, often battery-powered, that is used to manage both acute and chronic pain. Acute pain is pain caused by injury, surgery, illness, trauma, or childbirth.  Chronic pain is long-term pain that lasts weeks or years due to inflammation or nerve trauma.  TENS therapy involves the use of low-voltage electric currents to treat pain, swelling, and tension. This small battery device delivers electrical impulses through sticky reusable electrodes placed on the surface of your skin, changing the way you perceive pain.

TENS therapy blocks or changes your perception of pain. This works in two different ways.  The electric current stimulates nerve cells that block the transmission of pain signals, modifying your perception of pain. This is called the gate-way control theory of pain. They also stimulate your tissue to raise the level of endorphins, which are the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals. The endorphins then block the perception of pain. A win-win tool for childbirth and recovery!


What is TENS therapy used to treat?

TENS therapy has been used to relieve pain and a variety of conditions for over 60 years in Great Britain and Europe.  More recently, it has been approved by the FDA to relieve both chronic or long-lasting pain and acute or short-term pain.

TENS units are being used to treat period pain,labor pain, postpartum cramps, postoperative pain, joint pain, and neck and back pain. They may also alleviate the pain that results from conditions like arthritis, sports injuries, endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and many more.


Evidence for Using TENS in Labor

There are several systematic reviews for TENS in labor. There are over 17 randomized control trials with over 1,500 participants. 11 randomized control studies have compared TENS to placebo TENS.   Some highlights from those studies: confirmed that TENS reduced the pain levels in the first and second stages of labor and for four hours after birth,  83% reported higher birth satisfaction with TENS compared to women who received narcotics,  they also reported no side effects where the narcotic group reported: low satisfaction, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, and poor Apgar scores. 


How does the TENS unit work? 

When a specific part of the body is strained or injured, muscles perform muscle guarding, causing muscles to tighten and swell up to protect the injured body part. This is our body’s natural response to pain. Muscle tightness and swelling that is left untreated for long periods can cause a lack of blood flow, increase the risk of another injury, and result in chronic pain and muscle tissue damage.

The TENS Unit blocks pain signals from getting to the brain, stopping the pain. Because the pain has stopped, muscles stop guarding allowing them to stop swelling, reduce tightness, increase blood flow, and then relax. Making it a reliable pain management device.

Even better, TENS units are controlled by the patients themselves. Allowing them to remain clear-headed and able to move and change positions freely. They can be used alone or with other comfort measures in labor and recovery. There is no reported harm to the parent or baby when using the TENS unit.

In short, TENS therapy reduces muscle pain and tension https://www.jelsciences.com/abstracts/1115, stops swelling, and results in better blood flow and a more efficient healing experience! With NO side effects.


Electrode placement by area of concern 

Postpartum belly pouch, Diastasis Recti 

Image of tens placement on abdomenThe last trimester of pregnancy places a lot of stress on a woman’s body. The large abdominal muscle sheets may be stretched and separated during late pregnancy, called Diastasis Recti. Use the TENS on the abdomen postpartum for short periods of time initially, gradually increasing the length of treatment up to 60 minutes per day. Simultaneously, gently increase the pulse intensity as well. This will increase the strength of the muscle contractions and gradually strengthen the muscles until they are firmer and stronger.  This will help to prevent back injury and get you up and moving around faster.

Postpartum cramping

Human outline showing TENS placement on abdomen

A small, single-blinded study in Sweden demonstrated that a TENS unit is effective for the alleviation of post-partum uterine pain during breastfeeding in the 24 hours following birth.



Cesarean scar recovery 

Human outline showing TENS placement on abdomen

TENS is an effective treatment after surgeries like a cesarean.   Use the TENS on the abdomen placed above and below the scar for short periods of time initially, gradually increasing the length of treatment up to 20 minutes per day. Then alternate with placing the pads on the ends of the scar. Gradually, increase the pulse intensity as well. This will prevent scar tissue called adhesions and give you a nice flat scar. Additionally, it will increase the strength of the muscle contractions and gradually strengthen the muscles until they are firmer.  stronger.


Human outline showing TENS placement on abdomen Sciatica is a “nerve-related condition that can cause potentially debilitating pain.” The sciatic nerve encompasses the lower body from the lower back to the legs. The pain of sciatica can therefore be felt from anywhere the sciatic nerves run through. Fortunately, the TENS unit has pads that can be put anywhere in the body.

The placement of the TENS unit’s pads for sciatica solely depends on your preference. The adhesive pads can be placed anywhere on the lower body, and the patients can experiment with different locations.

Most of the time, two electrode pads are placed as shown. Once you find what works for you, you’ll find that pain relief from sciatica is accessible, effective, immediate, and even portable when you use electrotherapy.

With other more serious conditions, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, the TENS can help with reducing the discomfort and inflammation of the sciatic nerve, reducing or blocking the transmitted pain signals. TENS has proven to effectively reduce the degree of pain and relieve the clinical symptoms and signs of lumbar disc herniation-induced sciatica. During their initial use of TENS, about 70% to 80% of patients experience pain relief for sciatica.


Breastfeeding applications 

Use during Lactation

Two small, limited studies found it useful for alleviating uterine pain caused by breastfeeding in the early postpartum period in hospitalized women. There are also anecdotal reports of TENS being used for nipple stimulation to induce lactation in adoptive mothers. However, no scientific evaluation of the safety or efficacy of this use could be located.

Effects on Lactation

A small, single-blinded study in Sweden demonstrated that a TENS unit is effective for the alleviation of post-partum uterine pain during breastfeeding in the 24 hours following birth.

Another small study in Brazil compared immediate postpartum uterine cramps/pain during breastfeeding. One group received TENS and the other did not and their pain was compared. Both groups had natural childbirths with no anesthesia. The TENS-using group reported less postpartum pain than the non-TENS group.

TENS for breastfeeding shoulder 

Human outline showing TENS placement on upper back and shoulder

Several research studies have been conducted regarding the efficacy of TENS for acute and chronic shoulder pain. TENS therapy significantly reduced shoulder pain in nearly all participants for up to ninety days with no adverse effects.  Many postpartum parents report shoulder pain due to holding a baby on their chest for lactation.

Locate the spot on your shoulder where the pain is the worst and place each of the two pads side-by-side atop the location.



What are the advantages or benefits of TENS therapy?

TENS is a noninvasive method for relieving pain. People who experience pain relief from TENS may be able to reduce or eliminate their intake of pain medications and increase their mobility.

TENS units are also convenient because they are small, portable, and relatively discrete. People can carry a TENS unit in their pocket or wear it on a lanyard to ensure that they have immediate access to pain relief throughout the day. TENS can be tailored to your needs by adjusting the Intensity of the electrical stimulation, the Frequency or the number of electrical pulses per second, and the  Duration of each pulse.


How long does pain relief last?

Some people report that their pain returns as soon as they switch off the device. Others continue to experience an adequate level of pain relief for up to 24 hours. A 2012 review suggests that the duration of pain relief increases after repeated TENS treatments.


What are the risks and side effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy?

It is safe for most people to use a TENS unit, and they will not usually experience any side effects. However, some people may experience  redness or irritation from the adhesive on the hypoallergenic pads.  and others find the electrical impulses that a TENS unit produces may cause a buzzing, tingling, or prickling sensation, which they may find uncomfortable.

Research shows high-frequency TENS is a more effective pain reliever; experts recommend that people apply the highest-intensity TENS that they can tolerate.


Who should avoid TENS?

Although it is safe for most people, experts recommend that some groups of people avoid TENS treatment unless a doctor advises its use. This includes:

  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women should avoid using TENS in the abdominal and pelvic regions unless a provider recommends others.
  • People with epilepsy: Applying electrodes to the head or neck of people with epilepsy may induce seizures.
  • People with heart problems or who use a pacemaker or another type of electrical or metal implant.
  • People with a bleeding or clotting disorder.
  • People should not place the team near open sores or on actively bleeding tissue.

If you have any current or past health issues, or any concerns or questions, always check with your healthcare provider before using TENS.



The research on using a TENS unit for pain relief has so far yielded inconsistent results due to a lack of high-quality scientific studies and clinical trials.

Some research suggests that TENS treatment can relieve pain, but this may be dependent on certain factors, such as the affected area of the body and the treatment intensity. Knowing how these factors affect TENS can help people use it more effectively.

Most people can use a TENS unit safely, and few will experience side effects. However, it is best to speak to a doctor before trying TENS either as an alternative treatment or in combination with other methods of pain management.

High-Frequency TENS units are available to purchase online or you can rent our OB TENS units. They are specifically designed for pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery. Ask me more: HERE.

Rent your TENS unit here.

 Medical Disclaimer 

Always consult your healthcare provider for advice as it applies to your personal circumstances.