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

TENS Unit for Jaw Pain: A Guide on How to Operate the Device

A small wing iTENS electrode and necessary informatiion about iTENS

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) provides pain relief for various acute and chronic pain conditions. It is also an effective treatment for Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders, so many are interested in using one. A TENS unit for jaw pain is an electrical device that uses electrode pads. These are applied to muscles near the jaw bones before the user turns their unit on and adjusts the settings according to their pain intensity and comfort level.

Many people suffer from jaw joint disorders. To address them, many use conservative treatment methods, such as physical therapy and oral medications. Some also opt for alternative treatments like TENS because it is a non-invasive and drug-free pain management option. Moreover, it promotes a sense of relaxation and well-being, which can improve the quality of daily life. This article will present information on how a TENS unit works, how to operate one, and the safety precautions.

How a TENS Unit for Jaw Pain Works

A TENS unit for jaw pain works by using externally applied electrode pads to deliver low-voltage electrical currents to the nerve endings. It can trigger various mechanisms that can provide short-term therapeutic effects. Users can adjust the settings based on their comfort levels and experiment with what levels work best for them. Most units allow users to modify the frequency, intensity, and pulse width settings.

People can trigger the pain gate mechanism using high-frequency electrical impulses (50-120 Hz). This is a mechanism suggested in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. It proposes that electrical stimulation can induce spinal nerve cells to block pain signals. It is ideal for acute pain conditions because it can work within minutes of starting the session. Furthermore, TENS increases blood flow, relieving sore jaw muscles and other facial muscles.

On the other hand, using a low stimulation frequency (2-10 Hz) is ideal for chronic conditions. This setting triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. These bind to opioid receptors and reduce the perception of pain. They can provide a longer period of pain relief, reduce inflammation, decrease stress, and improve moods.

Benefits of TENS Therapy

  • Drug-free relief: TENS does not require using medications to take effect. It is ideal for those looking to reduce their intake of oral medications to avoid side effects.
  • Non-invasive method: TENS therapy provides relief without risks of infections and other complications by utilising external electrode pads to send the electrical impulses.
  • Non-addictive: Unlike pain medications, TENS therapy treatments are not addictive. Individuals can undergo a session multiple times daily without forming dependency issues.
  • Improves quality of life: TENS therapy can promote a better sense of well-being by triggering endorphin release. Furthermore, it indirectly boosts healing, helping people to return to normal activities.

A guide on how to use the iTENS smartphone app

How to Operate a TENS Unit for Jaw Pain

Operating a TENS unit for jaw pain is a straightforward process. However, it does remain crucial to follow the manual or proper instructions from a healthcare professional to ensure safety. The user should also take preparatory steps to maximise the positive effects of TENS therapy. Examples of these steps include washing the treatment area and checking if the machine and accessories are in good condition.

To start the session, the individual must apply the TENS pads on the target area. Next, they must connect the pads to the control unit with wires or Bluetooth. Once the pads are secure, they may turn the unit and timer on. TENS sessions typically last for 15 to 30 minutes, but they can also set this on the advice of their healthcare provider. Then, they can adjust the settings to their comfort level or select a preset program.

When the treatment duration finishes, they must turn the unit off. Afterwards, they can remove the electrodes. To prolong their use, users should clean them with a clean cloth and a few drops of water to remove debris. Then, store them in a cool, dry place.

Pad Placement Guide

Strategic electrode placement is crucial when using TENS machines. Generally, users apply TENS pads on muscles near the pain source. The same applies to jaw pain. Hence, the individual must attach the pads to muscles near the jaw joint. They may attach it to both sides if they have multiple pads.

However, they must avoid applying the pads close to the throat. It is a sensitive area that could cause adverse effects if electric stimulation is directly applied. Moreover, they should not apply adhesive pads on irritated, broken, or infected skin since it could worsen the condition.

A person removing the plastic cover from an iTENS electrode

Safety Precautions When Using a TENS Unit for Jaw Pain

Individuals must follow safety precautions when using a TENS unit for jaw pain. Foremost, they should consult a medical professional to ensure that TENS therapy is compatible with their overall health condition. Some ailments react negatively to electrical stimulation, such as heart disease, epilepsy, and seizures. Professional guidance on treatment duration and settings can also help increase the effectiveness of the therapy.

Furthermore, individuals must stay alert when using TENS therapy, especially during their first session. Some may experience allergic reactions from the pads or adhesives. Therefore, checking underneath the electrode site can provide prompt action. In addition, although TENS can cause relaxation, users should not sleep during the session. Otherwise, they may not be able to react if an accident occurs.

Moreover, users should not do safety-sensitive activities that require concentration during treatment. This includes driving or operating heavy machinery. Additionally, avoid contact with water during the session. It could damage the unit and cause it to malfunction, harming the user. Lastly, do not use the unit excessively for prolonged periods because this may cause skin irritation.

When to Seek Professional Help?

Although TENS is safe for most people, potential side effects can occur. Thus, knowing when to seek professional help is crucial. Foremost, TENS therapy should not cause the pain to worsen during or after the session. Therefore, the individual should stop the session and seek medical help if this occurs.

Moreover, if the stiffness of the jaw joint worsens or the pain becomes severe, they should consult their healthcare provider to create or modify their treatment plan. They may conduct a thorough evaluation using imaging tests and other examination methods. They can also include treatment options, like physical therapy and lifestyle modifications.


A TENS unit for jaw pain is a medical device that can provide temporary relief from facial pain due to temporomandibular disorders. It works by triggering the pain gate mechanism and production of endorphins to reduce pain perception. Moreover, it can improve blood circulation for muscle relaxation and improve jaw muscle function. It is a non-invasive and drug-free method many use for its numerous benefits and efficacy on muscle pain.

TENS therapy is easy to self-administer. People seeking to alleviate jaw aches can simply attach the electrodes to the muscles near the jaw and adjust the settings accordingly. Nevertheless, consulting a medical professional is recommended. They may evaluate the overall condition and ensure safety when using TENS. In addition, users should always stay alert during sessions to promptly react if needed. Individuals interested in using a TENS machine may consider the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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