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TENS Unit for Hamstring: How Electrotherapy Aids in the Recovery of Hamstring Injury

A man at the sea side gripping his hamstring

Hamstring injuries can cause severe pain and become debilitating. It commonly affects elite athletes and people who play sports that involve running and jumping. For rehabilitation of the injury, many use physical therapy modalities and pain medication for treatment. Another option is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy. Using a TENS unit for hamstring injuries is helpful because the electrical stimulation can trigger the release of endorphins, increase blood flow, and reduce inflammation.

People with hamstring muscle pain can benefit from TENS therapy because it provides non-invasive and drug-free relief. Moreover, it is easy to use and cost-effective because it works on various acute pain and chronic pain conditions. Nevertheless, consulting a medical professional is recommended before undergoing TENS therapy. They may advise on how to use the machine for the condition. This article will give an overview of what TENS is, how it works, and how to operate it.

What is a TENS Unit for Hamstring?

Hamstring injuries occur when an individual strains one or more of the three hamstring muscles. Along with ankle ligament sprains, it is a common type of injury among athletes and those who play sports like soccer. To treat it, people usually consume pain medication and use heat therapy and other physical therapy modalities. Another option is electrical stimulation using a TENS unit for hamstring.

A TENS machine is an electrotherapy device that delivers low-voltage electric currents to the body using externally applied electrodes. They are commonly used in medical settings, such as hospitals and physical therapy clinics. Generally, there are two common types of TENS machines: wired and wireless.

Wired or handheld units use lead cables to connect the electrodes to the power source and controller. There are units with single, dual, and quad-channels that can link to a set of electrodes each. Meanwhile, wireless TENS units use Bluetooth to link the electrodes and the controller. Many prefer them because they are convenient and have advanced features compared to handheld units. It removes the restriction of movement caused by wires, allowing individuals to do simple everyday activities during sessions.

Symptoms of Hamstring Injury

The symptoms of a hamstring injury may vary depending on the severity of the condition. The injury can be classified from grades one to three. These are some of the symptoms:

  • Mild to severe onset of pain that radiates while doing everyday activities like exercising, walking, or bending over. It is usually felt in the thighs and lower buttocks.
  • Popping or snapping sensations.
  • Tenderness and bruising on the back of the thigh.
  • Loss of strength on isometric contractions.
  • Swelling and function loss, which affects the mobility of the individual.
  • Bumps or knots in the thighs.
  • Muscle stiffness and spasms.

A guide on how to use the iTENS smartphone app

How a TENS Unit for Hamstring Works

A TENS unit for hamstring injuries uses electrical stimulation to trigger mechanisms for alleviating pain. Individuals can customise their treatment by adjusting the intensity, frequency, and pulse width levels depending on their tolerance and comfort level. They may also choose a preset program for hamstring injury, if available.

Using high-frequency stimulation (50-150 Hz) triggers the spinal nerve cells to block the transmission of pain signals from reaching the brain. This is the pain gate mechanism suggested in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It is ideal for acute pain conditions because it takes effect quickly. In addition, it can help increase blood flow to the hamstring muscles, which can aid with healing the damage while reducing the pain level.

Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) triggers the production of endogenous opioids. These are painkilling hormones that build up and reduce the overall pain level. Many use it for chronic pain conditions because its effects last for hours. In addition, endorphins can help reduce inflammation, which can help improve mobility.

Advantages Over Other Treatment Methods

There are several advantages of using TENS for hamstring pain. Firstly, TENS therapy is non-invasive, reducing the risk of infections and other complications. Moreover, one difference between TENS therapy and surgery is that there is no recovery period needed after using TENS. Secondly, TENS is drug-free. This is particularly helpful for those who wish to reduce or replace their intake of pain medication during the rehabilitation process.

Thirdly, TENS machines are portable. This allows individuals to achieve immediate pain relief in various locations. Fourthly, it is easy to self-administer. Lastly, TENS is complementary to other rehabilitation treatment methods, including physical therapy and medication.

A man at the sea side gripping his hamstring

How to Operate a TENS Unit for Hamstring

Operating a TENS unit for hamstring injuries is a straightforward process. Nevertheless, it is ideal to study the instruction manual beforehand to understand how to use the machine. Moreover, the user should check the unit and accessories to ensure it is in good condition.

To start, the user must place the electrodes on the muscle areas near or on the origin of the pain. For hamstring pain, they may apply the TENS pads on the thighs. Once secure, they may turn the machine on. Starting on the lowest settings is recommended to prevent sudden shocks or discomfort. Then, they may gradually increase the settings or select a preset program.

Generally, TENS sessions last between 20 to 30 minutes. This can vary depending on the settings used and the severity of the condition. However, it is crucial to avoid overusing the machine to avoid potential adverse effects. They may set a timer to help keep track of time. After the time runs out, they may switch the machine off and remove the electrodes.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

TENS therapy is generally safe for most people. Nevertheless, as with most medical treatments, side effects may occur during the session. One possible risk is an allergic reaction to either the adhesive or the materials of the TENS pads itself. To avoid this, people may use hypoallergenic pads.

Another possible side effect is skin irritation. This may occur due to overusing the machine or because of excessively high intensity settings. The same is true for another possible side effect, which is muscle contractions or twitching. Users may avoid this by gradually increasing the settings during TENS therapy.


A TENS unit for hamstring injuries is a medical device that can provide temporary relief from muscle pain. It uses electrical stimulation to induce endorphin production and the pain gate mechanism to reduce the overall pain level. Moreover, it can help reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to relieve muscle tightness and speed up the rehabilitation process. It is effective for various acute pain and chronic pain conditions, including knee injuries, leg injuries, and tendon injuries.

An advantage of TENS therapy is the machines are easy to self-administer. It does not require medical supervision, making it convenient. Furthermore, many TENS machines also feature preset modes and programs to help during recovery. Some have massage programs that can help active athletes after training. To use TENS, the user must apply the electrode pads on or near the origin of the pain and then adjust the settings accordingly.

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