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Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Muscle Pain Relief: Pad Placement for Effective Relief 

A man holding his left wrist

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS muscle pain relief is a technique that can alleviate muscle discomfort by using electrical impulses. It involves the application of small adhesive pads that transmit these impulses to the skin. To ensure effective relief, it is important to place these pads properly. Clean and dry the skin before attaching the pads. Then, position the electrodes on either side of the treatment area. Individuals may refer to the placement chart provided with the unit.

Excessive physical activity can cause muscle pain. This is a result of lactic acid build-up, tears in the muscle tissues, and inflammation. Additionally, poor posture can lead to sore muscles. Sitting or standing in uncomfortable positions for long periods can also lead to muscle strains. One of the treatment methods for muscle pain is TENS therapy. This article will present how TENS for muscle pain relief works, including the proper pad placement and benefits.

How Does a TENS Muscle Pain Relief Work?

A TENS muscle pain relief uses an electrical device to deliver low-voltage electrical signals to alleviate discomfort. Pain clinics, healthcare professionals, and physical therapists widely utilise it as a tool for pain management. Fortunately, technological advancement led to the development of TENS for personal use. This allows people to use it at home or on the go.

Generally, TENS works in two ways. Firstly, high-frequency electrical stimulation triggers the spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This suits acute pain because the effects are fast-acting. However, it may only last a few minutes after the session. Secondly, low-frequency stimulation induces endorphin production. This is more suitable for chronic pain because its effects last hours after the session. However, it does take longer for the user to feel its effects.

Furthermore, many devices have preset modes. These are tailored for different body parts and conditions, making the session more convenient. Some program modes include burst mode, continuous mode, and modulation mode. Burst mode delivers short bursts of electrical pulses. Meanwhile, the continuous mode provides constant pulses. Lastly, the modulation mode has varying pulse frequency and intensity.

Main Theories at Work

  • Gate Control Theory of Pain – this theory suggests that there are nerve fibres in the spinal cord that act as “gates” and control the transmission of pain messages. When external stimuli like electricity are provided, these neural gates restrict the pain signals travelling to the brain. High-frequency TENS can activate this mechanism.
  • Natural Opioids System – the body produces natural opioids like enkephalins and endorphins in the brain, which then circulate throughout the body. These natural painkillers are released during activities such as exercise, massage, eating, or sexual intercourse. Low-frequency TENS can help induce the release of higher levels of endorphins.

A woman placing a TENS electrode on the back of another person

Pad Placement When Using a TENS Muscle Pain Relief

Electrode pads are small adhesive pads that transmit electrical impulses from the conductor to the skin. This allows the current to reach the nerves or muscles for stimulation. It comes in different types, such as fabric, hydrogel, and carbon-based designs. The pad material increases the conductivity of the current, resulting in a more comfortable and effective treatment.

When using a TENS muscle pain relief device, proper electrode placement is crucial. Start by cleaning the skin surface where the pads will be placed. Then, dry the skin thoroughly to ensure good contact. The electrode pads should be at least one inch apart to avoid overlapping the electrical pulses.

Next, position electrode patches on either side of the pain area. For example, if the pain is in the lower back, the pads should be on either side of the spine. It is important to avoid placing the pads directly over joints, bones, or sensitive areas of the skin. Moreover, monitor the skin for any irritation or discomfort during and after use.

How to Operate the Device

Operating the electronic device involves a few simple steps. Before use, it is important to read the instructions of the device or seek professional advice. Likewise, individuals should clean the treatment area and remove any lotion, oil, or dirt. Once the skin is clean and dry, place the electrodes on or near the pain area.

Users then set the frequency, intensity, and pulse duration according to their types of pain. It is advisable to start at the lowest settings and gradually increase until the tingling sensations feel strong but comfortable. Furthermore, the treatment sessions range from 30 to 45 minutes at low-frequency levels.

An iTENS small wing kit and long wing kit with refill gel pads

Benefits of TENS Muscle Pain Relief

TENS muscle pain relief offers many benefits for individuals seeking a non-invasive and drug-free treatment option. Firstly, there is no need for surgery or insertion of instruments into the body, making it a safer option. This is particularly beneficial for those who want to avoid the potential negative side effects of opioid medications.

Secondly, TENS is portable, allowing individuals to carry and use a TENS device conveniently at home, at work, or during travel. Thirdly, it is cost-effective, minimising the need for continuous medication and medical appointments to healthcare providers. Fourthly, TENS is customisable. Individuals can adjust the settings of the device to meet their unique needs.

Moreover, TENS is a versatile pain relief option. People can use it to treat various acute and chronic pain conditions beyond muscular pain. These include labour pain, post-operative pain, joint pain, neuropathic pain, and more. Lastly, TENS is practical and can be used daily, weekly, or monthly. The electrode pads are reusable and refillable. Therefore, it is a worthy investment.

Safety Guidelines

Before using TENS, individuals should undergo a comprehensive health assessment by consulting with a healthcare professional. This is especially important for individuals with conditions such as heart problems, epilepsy, and cancer, as they may not be suitable candidates.

Additionally, some people may experience allergic reactions due to the TENS pads. If this occurs, discontinue use and clean the area with warm soap and mild water. Individuals may use hypoallergenic pads to minimise discomfort. Moreover, it is essential not to leave the device running for more than one hour. Prolonged use may cause overstimulation, leading to headaches, muscle fatigue, and skin irritation.


In conclusion, TENS muscle pain relief works by delivering low-voltage electrical signals through electrode pads to alleviate discomfort. It operates in two ways: blocking pain signals with high-frequency stimulation and inducing endorphin production with low-frequency stimulation. Proper pad placement is vital for effective use, ensuring electrodes are clean, positioned at least one inch apart, and avoiding sensitive areas. With technological advancements, TENS devices offer convenient preset modes for various conditions.

TENS offers a safe, versatile, and cost-effective solution for pain relief. It is non-invasive, drug-free, portable, and customisable, catering to various pain conditions. While beneficial, it is crucial to consult healthcare professionals before use, especially for those with specific health conditions. Users should be aware of potential allergic reactions and avoid prolonged use to prevent side effects. People who want to purchase TENS can buy from numerous stores, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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