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Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Unit for Finger Pain: What It Is, How It Works, and the Pad Placement

A person holding his hand because of pain

Individuals may get finger pain from an injury or medical condition. This type of pain can restrict activities that involve gripping objects or doing daily chores. Thus, many use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). A TENS unit for finger pain consists of small electrode pads to deliver mild electrical pulses. It works by stimulating the nerves to interrupt the transmission of pain signals. For effective relief, attach the pads on top and below the hands or wrist.

Hand injuries may take several weeks or months to heal completely. On the other hand, underlying conditions like rheumatoid arthritisgout, and carpal tunnel syndrome are chronic and do not have a definite cure. Fortunately, people can use TENS therapy to manage pain without medications. This article will present a TENS machine, how it works, and the pad placement guide for finger and thumb pain.

What is a TENS Unit for Finger Pain?

A TENS unit for finger pain is a portable battery-operated device that sends low-voltage electrical currents to the body. The machine is worn on the affected area to stimulate the affected nerves, muscles or tissues. While many use TENS for chronic back pain, it is also suitable for pain in the hands. However, this requires the use of smaller pads.

TENS machines often come with a push-button remote and wired electrode pads. The pads are interchangeable with different sizes or shapes to fit in different areas of the body. Moreover, another type is a wireless TENS unit, and it does not require lead cables. Instead, it incorporates Bluetooth technology to connect to a smartphone.

These devices have adjustable settings to provide personalised treatment. Users can modulate the pulse rate or frequency, pulse width, and intensity depending on their type and level of pain. Furthermore, TENS machines may use single-use or rechargeable batteries. Overall, the choice of getting a device may depend on individual preference or treatment needs.

How to Operate the Device

The operation of TENS machines may differ according to the features of the unit. The following are general usage guidelines:

  • Attach the electrodes to the pain area.
  • Turn on the unit and adjust the necessary settings. Alternatively, users may select a treatment mode from the pre-set programs.
  • Start at a low intensity and gradually increase until the pulses are at a strong but comfortable level.
  • Set the treatment duration for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the severity.
  • After use, turn off the device and carefully remove the pads.
  • Clean the sticky surface of the electrodes and store the device properly.

A news anchor explaining how TENS works

How Does a TENS Unit for Finger Pain Work?

A TENS unit for finger pain works by activating the pain gate mechanism and triggering the production of endogenous opioids. In pain gating, the electrical stimulation induces the nerves in the spinal cord to hinder the passageway of pain signals. As a result, fewer pain signals reach the brain, reducing the perception of pain.

The second method by which TENS can reduce pain sensations is to stimulate endorphin release. Endorphins are known as natural painkillers because of their analgesic effects. They bind to opioid receptors to inhibit the brain from receiving pain messages. Additionally, they help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. TENS also boost blood circulation to flush out wastes, reduce inflammation, and restore mobility.

Individuals may use sensory-level stimulation at high frequencies (50 Hz and above) to close the gating channels. Meanwhile, motor-level stimulation at low frequencies (10 Hz and below) will trigger endorphin production. Healthcare professionals often advise alternating the frequency levels to find optimal results and prevent the body from building resistance to TENS treatment.


TENS therapy offers a non-invasive and drug-free approach to pain relief. It does not involve intrusive procedures that may be risky or uncomfortable. Moreover, since it does not involve medications, there are no harmful side effects or risk of complications. Therefore, many consider TENS to be a safe option.

A TENS machine is portable and easy to use. Individuals can use the device anywhere whenever necessary. It also provides localised relief through electrode placement. Thus, it minimises the risk of harm to vital organs. Lastly, the adjustable settings enable people to customise their treatment based on what works best for them.

A woman turning on the wireless TENS device on the hand

Pad Placement Guide When Using a TENS Unit for Finger Pain

The correct pad placement of the TENS unit for finger pain is essential for effective results. However, this would depend on the type of electrodes. In general, parallel placement involves putting the pads on either side of the pain. This allows for an even flow of electric currents. Users may also position the sets of electrodes between the hand and wrist.

An alternate use is cross placement. Position one pad on top of the affected finger and another underneath, creating a cross-like pattern. This configuration targets both sides simultaneously, providing comprehensive relief. Some TENS units have specialised electrodes allowing users to slip their fingers in between. Therefore, it does not risk the pads from coming off.

Regardless of the chosen placement, it is essential to ensure that the pads adhere firmly to the skin without overlapping each other. This prevents any interference with the electrical current flow and ensures accurate stimulation. Before applying the pads, clean and dry the skin to optimise adhesion.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While TENS may provide short-term relief, it is vital to seek medical attention if the pain is getting worse. People with recurring pain that does not improve even after home treatments may seek advice from a practitioner. Likewise, be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate a serious medical condition.

People should consult a doctor if there is a sudden injury, deformity or difficulty straightening the fingers. In addition, numbness or tingling sensation, swelling, redness, and severe pain at rest necessitate medical attention. For people with diabeteshand pain can be more serious.


A TENS unit for finger pain is an effective way to manage different hand conditions. The device sends mild electrical pulses to the fingers through electrode pads placed near the area. The currents cause the body to block pain signals and release endorphins. As a result, it alleviates pain and other discomforts. Individuals may choose between wired or wireless TENS units according to their personal preferences or specific needs.

Proper electrode placement is crucial to stimulate the right nerves to ensure safe and effective use. For finger pain relief, position the TENS pads parallel or across the affected hand or fingers. Also, avoid using TENS if the area has broken skin, cuts, or irritation. Furthermore, consult a medical professional if the pain persists or worsens for more than one week. It is also crucial to seek professional help if the pain comes with numbness or tingling sensations.

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