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TENS Unit for Hand Numbness: Is It an Effective Treatment Method?

A person applying pressure on the right hand

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for hand numbness has proven effective by delivering electrical impulses that target poor blood circulation and muscle stiffness. It contracts and relaxes muscles, promoting healthy muscle performance and relieving pain perception. Moreover, TENS can block pain signals by overriding spinal cord nerves with high frequency. Furthermore, it can stimulate endorphin release using low-frequency stimulation to reduce pain sensation. This 3-in-1 mechanism makes TENS a beneficial and proven method for treating hand numbness.

Hand numbness refers to the loss of sensation or tingling in the hands. It can occur due to various reasons, including nerve compression, poor blood circulation, or underlying medical conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or peripheral neuropathy. Hand numbness can be temporary or chronic, and it can affect one or both hands. This article will present how a TENS device for hand numbness works, including its proper usage and safety precautions.

How a TENS Unit for Hand Numbness Works

A TENS unit for hand numbness is a portable device that sends electrical stimulation through electrode patches. It is designed to target poor blood circulation and muscle stiffness. By delivering electrical impulses to the muscles of the body, it aids in contracting and relaxing them. Also, it promotes healthy muscle performance and relieves pain signals.

Aside from muscle stimulation, TENS works by overriding the nerves in the spinal cord that act as pain gate controllers using high frequency. The electrical stimulation from TENS closes the “neural gates”, blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. This method of pain relief is beneficial for people experiencing acute pain or intense pain. It is also effective for those who engage in repetitive motions or suffer from conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Additionally, TENS can stimulate the production of endorphins using low frequency. Endorphins are natural chemicals that the body releases when it perceives pain and stress. By increasing the production of endorphins, TENS can help reduce the sensation of pain in adults experiencing hand numbness. This mechanism is suitable for chronic pain conditions.

Advantages of the Treatment

  • It enhances oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles and organs throughout the body, promoting an efficient healing process.
  • TENS therapy is non-invasive, making it a less intimidating and more accessible treatment option.
  • It does not involve the use of medications, reducing the risk of potential side effects and drug interactions associated with pharmacological therapy.
  • People can use TENS therapy alongside other treatments like wrist splints, cold therapy, and wrist exercises.
  • Individuals can use electric nerve stimulation therapy at home, reducing the need for frequent visits to healthcare providers for manual therapy.
  • Users can adjust the settings to different intensity levels, allowing for personalised pain management.

Two small wing gel pads

How to Operate a TENS Unit for Hand Numbness

Using a TENS unit for hand numbness is simple. It is highly recommended to conduct a patch test before using a device for the first time. After testing, apply a small amount of gel or water to the electrode pads. Then, attach them to the areas that need pain relief or contraction. The pads should be directly on the skin, ensuring proper contact.

Next, select the desired settings on the device. Start with a lower intensity and gradually increase when necessary. Turn on the unit, and individuals will begin to feel gentle electrical impulses. It is essential to follow the recommended treatment duration for each session. Moreover, people should always seek medical advice if there are any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns.

The goal is to experience a comfortable tingling sensation without discomfort or pain. Using a TENS machine regularly can help alleviate pain, improve muscle performance, and promote overall well-being. To maintain the device and have consistent electrical stimulation therapy sessions, storing the unit and the pads is advisable.

Correct Pad Placement

For hand numbness, the correct electrode position involves targeting the median nerve. The user should place the adhesive electrodes on the palm side of the hand, near the base of the thumb. This targeted placement helps to provide stimulation to the affected nerve, reducing numbness and improving sensation in the hand.

It is important to ensure that the adhesive electrodes are placed securely to avoid movement during the stimulation. Additionally, the person should adjust the electrode position slightly if they do not feel the sensation in the hand. By following these electrode placement guidelines, individuals can effectively address hand numbness and promote relief.

A hand peeling the protective backing of an electrode

Precautions When Using a TENS Unit for Hand Numbness

It is important to follow some preventative measures to ensure the safe usage of a TENS unit for hand numbness. Firstly, people should consult a medical professional to determine if TENS is a suitable treatment for a particular condition. These professionals can advise the correct settings to use. Secondly, users need to ensure the skin is clean and dry before putting the electrodes. They should not place the pads on open wounds or broken skin.

Thirdly, it is crucial to avoid sensitive areas like the head, eyes, throat, spine, and near varicose veins. The electrical stimulation in these locations may worsen the condition or cause complications. It is also recommended to start with the lowest intensity and gradually increase it as necessary. This allows for a more comfortable and controlled experience.

If the stimulation starts to cause discomfort, users should check the settings and readjust accordingly. It is also essential not to leave the device running for more than one hour. Prolonged use may cause overstimulation, leading to headaches, muscle fatigue, and minor skin irritation. For continuous treatment, users have to allow a 20-minute break between sessions.

Are There Risks of Side Effects?

When using a TENS unit, there are some possible side effects to be aware of. One potential side effect is skin irritation, which can occur when people use low-quality or worn-out electrodes. This can lead to redness or itching on the skin. To avoid this, users should place the pads on clean, healthy skin and use hypoallergenic pads.

Another possible side effect is muscle twitching, which is an involuntary contraction of muscles. This can happen when the electrical impulses from the TENS machine stimulate the sensory nerves excessively. To prevent muscle twitching, individuals can use burst or modulation modes, which are gentler on the muscles.


In conclusion, a TENS unit for hand numbness works by delivering electrical impulses through electrodes, targeting poor blood circulation and muscle stiffness. It can also override pain signals in the spinal cord and can stimulate the release of endorphins. Operating the device involves a simple patch test, applying electrode pads with gel or water, and selecting appropriate settings. Regular use can provide relief, improve muscle performance, and enhance overall well-being.

Using a TENS unit demands careful attention to precautions. Consultation with a medical professional is crucial to determine suitability and receive proper guidance. Ensuring clean, dry skin and avoiding sensitive areas are vital steps. Additionally, starting at the lowest intensity and monitoring for discomfort is advisable. Furthermore, individuals must be mindful of electrode quality to prevent skin issues. By following these precautions, people can enhance the effectiveness and safety of TENS therapy for hand numbness.

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