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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Unit Arthritis Pain: How Does It Work To Relieve The Discomfort?

A person touching their knee with both hands

Arthritis is a common condition that causes joint inflammation and can lead to chronic pain. There are various traditional treatment options available, like painkillers. However, many individuals seek alternative methods to manage their symptoms. One of which is the use of a TENS unit for arthritis pain. It works by delivering mild electrical impulses to the nerve endings near the painful area. Then, it prompts the release of endorphins and blocks pain signals from reaching the brain.

Suffering from constant pain can be debilitating. It can affect how people live their lives. Thus, having a tool like TENS is beneficial. They can easily utilise the device at home. Moreover, it has minimal risks and side effects. Understanding the mechanism behind it can make an informed decision about incorporating it into pain management routines. This article will present what a TENS machine is, how it works, and the precautions of operating one.

What is a TENS Unit for Arthritis Pain

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for arthritis pain is a method of pain relief. It sends electrical pulses through electrode pads and into the skin to help manage pain. This helps to interrupt and block pain signals from reaching the brain. TENS is a form of electrotherapy. It can provide relief as fast as 15 minutes.

TENS machines are typically portable and battery-operated. They come in different shapes and sizes. Some are large enough to suit areas like the back or legs. On the other hand, some devices are small and bendable to fit around body parts like the knee or wrist. Other units have rechargeable batteries that last for days. Also, these TENS machines are easy to use. Hence, everyone can operate it.

A TENS device is versatile. It can manage not just arthritic pain, but also conditions like sciatica, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more. Aside from reducing pain, it can also help alleviate muscle tension, promote healing of soft tissue, and improve circulation. All in all, a TENS unit provides users with an effective way to manage pain.

Benefits of Using the Device

  • Drug-free: People can receive pain relief without the potential side effects of medications.
  • Non-invasive: TENS therapy is a safe treatment method. Individuals can undergo a session at home or under the guidance of medical professionals.
  • Potential reduction in medication use: Consistent TENS sessions may lead to a decreased reliance on pain medicines. This promotes a more natural approach.
  • Convenient: It does not require any complicated preparation or lengthy visits to the doctor. People can also bring a unit wherever they go and whenever they want.
  • Cost-effective: TENS is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of treatment, such as surgery or long-term use of drugs.

A TENS kit with refillable gel pad pack and necessary information

How a TENS Unit for Arthritis Pain Works

A TENS unit for arthritis pain works by utilising a low-voltage electric current. The device stimulates the nerve fibres. This blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain. The concept is based on the gate control theory. It states that the nervous system has gates for pain and non-painful stimulation. When the non-painful gate is stimulated, it can block the pain gate, decreasing pain perception.

Moreover, TENS works by boosting the production of endorphins, which are chemicals that act as natural painkillers. By stimulating the nerves with an electric current, the body produces more of these chemicals, which help to reduce pain. Also, it gives a relaxing feeling that helps to lessen stress and anxiety. This enables the body to heal more quickly and efficiently.

TENS can be used as a preventative measure against arthritis pain by helping to maintain flexibility and mobility in the joints. It is important to note that TENS becomes effective with proper usage and pad placement. People should use settings that are comfortable for them and change them as necessary. They can attach the electrodes directly to or near the pain site.

How to Operate the Device

Using a TENS machine is a simple process. As a start, ensure that the device and skin are clean for good contact. Next, attach the electrode pads to the TENS unit. Then, carefully place them on the affected area of the body. Turn on the TENS machine and let it deliver electrical impulses through the electrodes.

Begin with a lower intensity and slowly increase it if needed. Adjust the settings according to comfort level and the severity of pain. There may be a tingling sensation or gentle muscle contractions. However, it should not be uncomfortable or painful.

A woman sitting while touching her shoulder and hip

Precautions When Using a TENS Unit for Arthritis Pain

When using a TENS unit for arthritis pain relief, it is important to take certain precautions. Firstly, always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Also, they should see a doctor before starting the treatment because TENS can potentially interfere with certain conditions or treatments. Additionally, people should not treat with TENS the body parts where there is an infection or swelling.

Secondly, any electrodes that come in contact with the skin should be free from dirt or moisture before use. It is also important to monitor sensations during a session. If any discomfort is felt, immediately turn off the machine. Additionally, it is recommended to avoid placing the pads over areas with metal implants or near the eyes, as it can interfere with their proper functioning.

Lastly, start with recommended settings. Gradually change them if it is necessary or once comfortable. The pain tolerance of everyone is different. Thus, it is important to find a manageable level of electrical stimulation. It is essential to use the device correctly to maximise its benefits and ascertain safety. By following these guidelines, TENS can give people an effective experience.

When to Seek Medical Help

If the pain is not improving with the use of a TENS unit, it may be time to seek medical help. A medical professional, such as a rheumatologist or pain specialist, can provide a thorough evaluation. They can determine the underlying cause of the pain and develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Additionally, seeking medical help is especially important if a person has any underlying health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or cognitive impairment. This is because operating a TENS machine may require additional precautions or adjustments. Remember, a doctor is the best resource for individualised advice and recommendations for managing your arthritis and other pains.


A TENS unit for arthritis pain is a type of electronic device. It is designed to help reduce pain in adults. Specifically, it manages the discomfort arthritis causes. By sending small electrical pulses into the body, TENS can help to reduce the amount of inflammation and swelling in the joint. Many professionals, like physical therapists, recommend TENS. This is because of its non-invasive and drug-free nature. Moreover, it has low risks and does not cause side effects associated with drugs.

TENS has many benefits. One example is its versatility. It can help lessen foot pain, knee pain, muscular pain, neuropathic pain, movement-evoked pain, and post-operative pain. This is generally safe for everyone to use. However, they should exercise caution by following the instructions on the device and talking to their physician before using it. A TENS device is relatively affordable, making it accessible. They can acquire a personal machine online or by buying from drugstores.

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