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

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TENS Unit for IT Band: A Complete Guide

A man holding his aching thigh area at the beach

Pain or discomfort on the outer side of the knee or thigh characterises IT or Iliotibial band syndrome. Aside from taking medications or visiting a physical therapist, people can use a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for IT band. It is a natural pain-killer device that uses mild electrical pulses. TENS stimulates the nerves to block the pain messages from travelling to the brain. Individuals must place the electrode pads around the pain site to operate it effectively.

The iliotibial band is a thick band of connective tissue running along the thigh, from the hip to the knee. A sharp pain or discomfort occurs when it becomes inflamed or irritated. IT band syndrome is typically seen in athletes who engage in repetitive movements like cycling or hiking. Despite the effectiveness of common pain management methods, using alternative physiotherapy treatments can be beneficial. Thus, the article will present the definition, functionality, and usage of TENS.

What is a TENS Unit for IT Band?

Long-distance runners typically experience iliotibial band syndrome because they do repetitive motions. Massage therapists utilise foam rollers and other conservative treatments to alleviate the knee joint or iliotibial band pain. Nowadays, they can use a TENS unit for IT band during the physiotherapy sessions of patients. It is a battery-operated device that delivers low-voltage electrical stimulation to the nerves via electrode pads.

TENS machines can alleviate discomfort, promote healing, and enhance blood flow in the pain area. It can target body parts like the hip joint, thigh, knee joint, and calf muscles. Individuals can choose patches in various sizes to fit these different sites of the body. Moreover, handheld and wireless units are available. The former requires cables, while the latter can connect to Bluetooth.

Using a TENS device for IT band syndrome is generally safe. Nevertheless, people with the condition must consult a doctor or physical therapist before undergoing therapy, as they may advise on proper settings. Also, they may develop a comprehensive treatment approach, which includes TENS and strength training. Patients may need to perform exercises like leg raises and clamshells.

Causes of IT Band Pain

  • Overuse injury – Excessive running, cycling, or other repetitive movements can lead to inflammation and irritation of the IT band.
  • Weak hip muscles – Inadequate strength in the hip joint or hip abductor muscles can cause increased stress on the band during movement.
  • Poor biomechanics – Issues with foot placement, stride length, and pelvic alignment can contribute to iliotibial band pain.
  • Tightness in the IT band – Limited flexibility in this band can result in increased friction and irritation during movement.
  • Muscle imbalances – Weakness in the surrounding muscles, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, or gluteal muscles, can affect the load and movement pattern of the band.

A TENS kit with refillable gel pad pack and necessary information

How a TENS Unit for IT Band Works

A TENS unit for IT band pain relief delivers low-voltage electrical impulses to the affected area. The electrical stimulation helps stop pain signals travelling from the IT band to the brain. Consequently, it provides temporary relief. This is based on the Gate Control Theory, which states that stimulating the nerves with non-painful stimuli can alter the transmission of pain messages.

Moreover, using TENS can trigger the release of natural painkillers in the body. These are called endorphins, and their production promotes relaxing sensations. These natural pain relievers also help improve mood and overall well-being. Through TENS, individuals with knee pain can experience immediate relief without needing constant intake of medications or invasive procedures.

Aside from reducing the discomfort of one of the most common injuries for runners or athletes, TENS can enhance healing in the IT band. The electrical stimulation helps boost blood flow. This can accelerate the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues. The enriched circulation promotes tissue repair and regeneration, ultimately aiding the healing.

Advantages of TENS Over the Other Treatment Options

One advantage of TENS over other conservative treatment options is its versatility. Besides iliotibial band pain, TENS can manage acute pain conditions like hip pain or sports injuries. Also, it can alleviate chronic pain conditions like arthritic pain. Additionally, people can self-administer it at home. This provides convenient and flexible pain relief.

Unlike other conservative options, individuals can use TENS with other treatment methods. For example, TENS can be used in conjunction with physical therapy exercises, like hip abduction strength training, to enhance the overall effectiveness of treatment. It can also be combined with medications or other non-invasive therapies, such as heat or ice therapy.

A person using four TENS machines on their leg

How to Use a TENS Unit for IT Band

Before using a TENS unit for IT band, individuals must prepare the skin by cleaning it with alcohol or a mild soap and water. This step is crucial to prevent potential skin irritation. Then, place the electrode pads directly on or on either side of the affected area. Users can utilise multiple patches at once for more coverage. After attaching them, turn on the machine.

Adjust the settings depending on personal preferences and the suggestions of professionals. Also, people can choose a mode best suited to their needs. Many TENS units offer various modes, such as massage, kneading, or tapping. These options can help target specific areas of discomfort. Experiment with different frequencies, intensities, and modes to find the best combination for IT band pain.

Once individuals find the appropriate settings, relax and let TENS do its work for the recommended amount of time. Typically, each session should last 20-30 minutes. Turn off the device after completing the therapy and remove the electrode pads. It is best to use TENS in conjunction with the use of foam rollers, strength training, and dynamic stretching.

Where to Place the Electrodes?

When using TENS to treat IT band pain, placing the pads around the affected area is essential. The most effective placement for the electrodes is along the thigh, near the hip and knee. This targets the specific site of discomfort and helps alleviate pain and inflammation.

To ensure the best results, professionals suggest placing the electrode pads on both the upper and lower portions of the IT band. This will provide a comprehensive coverage of the entire affected area. Also, it maximises the therapeutic benefits of the TENS treatment, such as targeted relief and improved mobility.

Conclusion

TENS is one of the most effective alternative therapies for various chronic and acute pain conditions, like iliotibial band syndrome. A TENS unit for IT band is natural pain relief. This medical device emits gentle electrical pulses in the affected area. Subsequently, the stimulation blocks pain messages from reaching the brain. It also stimulates the production of endorphins. Thus, this innovative technology provides a drug-free pain reliever, making it more advantageous than other conservative treatments.

To use a TENS machine, place the electrode pads on the skin near the site of pain. Make sure to position and attach them correctly for maximum effectiveness. Adjust TENS to the desired intensity and frequency. This should be based on individual comfort levels and recommendations from a healthcare professional. With regular use, the TENS device can significantly reduce IT band pain. In addition, it can improve the overall quality of life for those suffering from this common orthopedic condition.

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