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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Machine for Arthritis in Hands: How It Works and the Proper Pad Placement

An elderly man holding his hand due to pain

Arthritis is the inflammation of the joints, and it can affect many parts of the body. Fortunately, many people can relieve pain through Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). A TENS machine for arthritis in hands provides instant relief through mild electrical currents. The currents work on the nerves to block pain and reduce inflammation. To use, place the adhesive electrodes above and below the hand or the affected joint and adjust the stimulation levels.

The hand is one of the most prone to pain and injury due to the many functions it performs all day. In addition, the normal wear and tear of the joints can lead to arthritic pain, especially as people age. This causes ongoing pain and negatively affects the quality of life. To help manage arthritis in the hands, this article will guide how it works, proper pad placement, and other benefits it can offer.

How a TENS Machine for Arthritis in Hands Works

A TENS machine is a portable device with adjustable settings and electrode pads. It works by sending small amounts of electrical pulses to the body through the skin. When the pulses stimulate the sensory nerves, it interrupts the transmission of pain signals. As a result, fewer messages reach the brain, leading to a reduction in pain.

The common forms of arthritis that affect the hands and wrists are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout. The swelling of the joints causes pain, stiffness, and restricted movement. These conditions are chronic and do not have a cure. Thus, a TENS machine for arthritis in hands can help people manage discomfort without relying on pain medications or costly medical treatments.

TENS can help reduce the pain intensity and frequency of attacks. Moreover, the machine can be used at home through its user-friendly and safety features. The unit allows for customisation of the pulse rate, pulse duration, and intensity. This helps find a level that is comfortable and effective. However, it is important to note that TENS therapy provides temporary pain relief but does not cure the cause of the pain.

The Main Theories At Work

  • Gate Control Theory of Pain: this theory suggests that certain nerve fibres in the spinal cord serve as a gating mechanism. TENS stimulates these nerves to block the flow of arthritis pain signals to the brain.
  • Endogenous Opioid Release Theory: low soothing electrical pulses trigger the release of natural painkillers like endorphins and enkephalins. These hormones inhibit the nerve cells from sending pain messages, creating an analgesic effect.
  • Blood Circulation: TENS can help increase blood flow to the affected. This allows the blood vessels to deliver more oxygen and nutrients, thereby reducing inflammation and improving joint function.

A woman using a wireless TENS machine on the hand

Proper Pad Placement When Using a TENS Machine for Arthritis in Hands

At the onset of pain, individuals may start the TENS treatment by applying the electrodes to the pain area. Generally, the pad placement of a TENS machine for arthritis in hands is on the sides of the joints. If the arthritis is in the knuckles, the electrodes should be placed on the top and bottom of the affected joints.

Another electrode placement option is to put one pad on the hand and another set below the wrist. It helps to stimulate the nerves in the entire area and also address wrist pain. It is important to keep the pads one inch apart and not overlap. This helps to ensure the even distribution of the electric currents.

When using a TENS machine for hand pain, users should consider the size and shape of the pads. The conventional electrode size should cover the area but not be too large that it may affect overlap with healthy tissues. There may also be TENS pads that cater specifically to the joints. Additionally, always use new and clean pads to ensure good adhesion and optimal relief.

How to Operate the Device

Operating the TENS device is simple, and individuals can use it without professional supervision. After ensuring the correct placement of electrodes, turn on the unit and set the appropriate pulse rate and duration. Then, begin the intensity at the lowest level and gradually increase until the sensations are strong but comfortable.

The average treatment duration is 30 to 45 minutes for chronic conditions. However, this may depend on the intensity of stimulation. It is crucial not to exceed one hour at a time to prevent discomfort. After the session, turn off the unit and remove the pads.

A grandfather lifting his grandson

Benefits of Using a TENS Machine for Arthritis in Hands

Many people prefer using a TENS machine for arthritis in hands because of the numerous benefits it can provide. Firstly, the device is portable and easy to use. Its compact design allows the users to carry it anywhere and use it anytime. Likewise, the controls are simple to operate. Individuals may control the electrical stimulation by pressing the increase and decrease buttons of each pulse setting.

Secondly, it is a drug-free device with no risk of adverse side effects. TENS machines offer a natural and safe option for people who prefer to avoid medications or have allergic reactions to oral pain relievers. Thus, they may use a TENS device as frequently as needed without worrying about adverse effects or complications to health.

Moreover, TENS provides versatile and comprehensive pain management. Aside from hand joint pain, it can help with other discomforts, such as knee painelbow pain, foot pain. TENS is also suitable for the treatment of other chronic pain conditions like sciatica, fibromyalgia, bursitis, and tendonitis. Lastly, it can be combined with physical therapy to maximise its effectiveness.

Safety Precautions

The use of electrotherapy devices like TENS involves following safety precautions. Although it is generally safe, improper usage may lead to discomfort or unwanted risks. It is important to follow the recommended intensity level and not exceed the maximum tolerance. Extreme stimulation may cause skin irritation, tissue damage, and burns.

It is critical to avoid sensitive areas, such as the head, eyes, throat, and chest. Additionally, do not use the TENS machine while bathing, sleeping, or driving. Most importantly, people with severe medical conditions must consult a health professional before use. This includes people with heart problems, epilepsy, cancer, and pregnant women.


Arthritis is a common pain in adults that causes pain and limits mobility. It may worsen as people age or without long-term pain management. Thus, using a TENS machine for arthritis in hands is one of the safe options for alleviating pain and discomfort. TENS works by stimulating the nerves to block pain signals and releasing endorphins. This helps to reduce inflammation and improve the range of motion. Furthermore, the device is easy to use.

Individuals should identify the proper electrode placement and settings for effective pain relief. The TENS treatment of rheumatoid arthritis can also prevent joint deformity and delay the progression in the intensity of pain. Moreover, patient assessment is necessary before starting TENS as a drug-free option. A doctor or physical therapist can give appropriate health care recommendations based on the medical history of the patient. Overall, TENS can provide beneficial improvement in chronic pain or autoimmune diseases.

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