Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS is non-invasive electrotherapy used for over 30 years in clinics as an effective pain relief solution by sending electrical pulses through skin electrodes. TENS therapy is safe, inexpensive, and easy to use by self-administration without prescription.

Recently, our reviews of SCI research have found that the use of electrotherapy using skin electrodes can improve bowel and bladder function. Further, it can be used as an additional treatment of hand function, pain, and spasticity without any side effects.

We are using FDA-approved TENS therapy devices (Omron HV-F128) to explore the potential to help people with chronic SCI by improving their urinary function.

It is hoped that TENS therapy could offer a simple, cost-effective solution to treat autonomic dysfunctions that would significantly improve overall health-related quality of life for individuals with spinal cord injury.


Several research studies suggest that TENS therapy has neuromodulation effects. Therefore, electrical current stimulation can modulate the nervous system i.e. brain, spinal cord as well as peripheral nerves, although the mechanism is not well understood. We hypothesize that electrical stimulation on cutaneous nerves underneath the skin area of the buttocks associates with the same level of spinal cord segments (S2-S4) for bladder control. Then, superficial sensory nerve stimulation may lead to both direct and indirect modulation effects on spinal cord reflexes as well as inhibiting bladder over-activitythereby improving bladder capacity.


We hope that this therapy can improve bladder function in chronic SCI without side effects. The study will add to health research knowledge regarding the safety and feasibility of TENS for use at home for bladder management in people with chronic SCI. The results from this research will be translated into a larger clinical trial to provide more evidence on the health benefits and cost-effectiveness for people with chronic SCI.


Skin irritation: it is common for redness to occur on the skin at the site of attaching electrodes.
This typically disappears within an hour of removing the electrodes.

More information about any side effects and how to manage, please check the Participant Information (page-5).


Your participation in this study is your choice. If you choose not to take part in the study, you will not be affected in any way. You can pull out at any time from the study and this will not affect your future healthcare or your relationship with the University of Auckland. The Participant Information Sheet will help you decide if you would like to take part.


After completing the 4-week study, you will be offered a $100 gift voucher (eGift Card or equivalent) for your time and effort as a THANK YOU Gift.



 Thanks to many participants who allow the research team to share unidentified feedback and testimonials on the website.


During TENS study


I just wanted you to know I wet myself last week – which sounds like bad news – but is good news! (T11, ASIA-B)


I have noticed that I can hold myself longer overnight which is excellent.  I usually wake and go around 3 pm but this has been stretched out until 5 am ish. And then 400 mls ish.  I feel very rested. (T11, ASIA-B)


My bladder was able to recover more quickly from leakage caused by over filling so I didn’t have consecutive leakage. (T4, ASIA-A)


Noticing some change now. Really encouraging. (C6-7, ASIA-D)


Esier to pee, better sensation, better bladder emptying, no UTI. (T11, ASIA-B)


TENS doesn’t cause heavy leakages. (T12, ASIA-C)


My bladder function has fully improved and it did even more when I using level 8 with tens device. (C6-7, ASIA-D)


I have not been needing to use the catheter at all for the past 2 weeks and I’m feeling great about it. (T4-5, ASIA-C)


I really hope that it produces good results for more people – who can then potentially avoid bladder enlargement surgery. (T4, ASIA-A)


No, bladder has stayed constant. Bit disappointed, really. Bowels are more active than previously but not in a huge way. (C7, ASIA-D)


Stimulating my bladder has given me awareness of my bladder function some improvement I spontaneous void more often. Thank you (T10, ASIA-B)


The same volume for the whole week 200-250 ml but feel managable better than botox, 3-5 leakage before TENS and reduce to 1-2 at week 3.  (C7, ASIA-A)



Post-TENS follow-up


My bladder function is doing well, I have not been using catheter for the past months now so a lot has improved. I believe I may still need to use TENS device at times but so far so good, I am getting by great independently. (T4-5, ASIA-C)


I’ve been without Cath throughout and I’m loving it 😊 I do however believe I still need to use the TENS device, I think if I was to use the TENS device for at least 6-8 months, my body will react to it positively in the end. (T4-5, ASIA-C)


I’ve had no leakage since I started using TENS again and have had volumes of up to 450ml overnight with no leakage. It’s made life much less stressful! (T4, ASIA-A)


I would like to inquire about purchasing one of the TENS devices I used in the trial last year. I remember there was a question in maybe the last survey I completed asking if I would be interested in purchasing a TENS machine, to which I did answer “yes”. (T4-5, ASIA-A)


I want to ask about resuming the tens therapy, I’ve noticed the urine flow has reduced despite strong bladder spasms. Could you let me know what I need to do – re ACC or information about the type of tens machine. (C6-7, ASIA-D)


Would like to keep using TENS after 4 wks study. (C7, ASIA-A)


Would it be possible to purchase one? But the main reason is for my bladder function. Although I still did experience some leakage during the study last year, it was definitely less than I would have had without TENS. (T4-5, ASIA-A)


I will keep monitoring the bladder function for another month to see if anything will change, unfortunately, I’ve learned that with this injury nothing happens overnight. (C6-7, ASIA-B)