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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Unit for Muscle Pain: How It Works to Improve the Quality of Life

A man touching the back of his neck and his lower back due to pain

Pain in adults can be burdensome. They may have neuropathic pain, labour pain, knee joint pain, and period pain. Muscular pain is a common condition individuals experience. It makes even the simplest tasks unbearable. Fortunately, they can utilise a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for muscle pain. This electronic device stimulates the nerves in the affected area to reduce discomfort. It blocks pain messages and releases more endorphins to decrease the pain perceptions of users.

Traditionally, healthcare providers, like physical therapists, use TENS to manage the symptoms of their patients. However, people can find and purchase a machine from online or physical stores. Thus, they can treat acute and chronic pain conditions wherever they are. It is beneficial because they do not need to rely as much on traditional pain management options, like drugs. The following sections will present more about what TENS for muscular pain is, how it works, and how to operate it.

What is a TENS Unit for Muscle Pain?

TENS is an alternative pain relief to medications. It can manage chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, and back pain. Moreover, it can help with acute pain conditions like muscular pain. A TENS unit for muscle pain is an electrical device that emits low-voltage electrical currents to the skin. Consequently, it reduces the soreness and tension in different muscle groups.

Electrode patches and a control unit are the main components of TENS. Generally, manufacturers offer handheld and wireless machines. The former comes with wires that connect the two components. On the other hand, the latter utilises Bluetooth technology for a wire-free experience. Individuals can connect their devices to their gadgets and regulate the settings through a mobile app.

One of the benefits of TENS is its non-invasive nature. Unlike with pain medicines or surgeries, users do not need to take drugs or undergo intrusive procedures. In addition, it is a safe and effective alternative for those who may be sensitive to certain medications or unable to go through other treatments. Furthermore, people can operate it anytime and anywhere for muscle pain.

Common Causes of Muscle Pain

  • Overuse or strenuous exercise – Tiny tears can develop when individuals push the muscles beyond their limits.
  • Injury or trauma – Accidents, falls, or impacts can cause muscle strain, sprains, or bruising.
  • Stress – Emotional or mental struggles can manifest as physical tension in the muscles.
  • Poor posture – Sitting or standing for a long time and in an awkward position can strain the muscles.
  • Dehydration – Inadequate fluid intake can lead to cramps due to electrolyte imbalances.
  • Illness – Conditions like the flu or bacterial infections can cause muscle aches as a symptom.
  • Medications – Certain drugs, like statins or steroids, can cause muscle pain as a side effect.

A newscaster reporting about TENS as a new pain relief

How a TENS Unit for Muscle Pain Works

A TENS unit for muscle pain produces electrical pulses to the pain site. Then, the currents disguise the pain through sensory-level electrical stimulation. This occurs when people use high frequencies, ranging from 50-120 Hz, to target the nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals. Those with acute pain in the muscles can benefit from this more.

In addition, individuals can use low frequencies from two to nine Hz for motor-level electrical stimulation. It stimulates the natural painkilling responses of the body by activating the release of endorphins. Subsequently, it can help improve muscle strength and prevent muscle atrophy. This is particularly useful for individuals who have suffered from long-term muscular pain or have undergone surgery that resulted in muscle weakness.

While a TENS device is an effective way to manage muscle pain, it is not a cure. Addressing the underlying cause of pain is vital to fully resolve the issue. Nevertheless, using TENS can provide temporary relief. Also, it makes it easier to engage in activities like physical therapy or stretching exercises, which can help to address the root cause of the pain.

Main Mechanisms

The main mechanisms of TENS involve pain gating and endorphin production. According to the Gate Control Theory of Pain, different pathways in our nervous system transmit pain signals to the brain. These can be thought of as gates that either open or close to allow the transmission. When users activate TENS, these prevent the messages from getting to the brain.

Meanwhile, endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals in the body that act as painkillers and mood enhancers. When individuals apply TENS on the affected area, the electrical pulses stimulate their release. As a result, it can help reduce pain and relax the muscles.

A woman using a TENS machine on her lower back

How to Operate a TENS Unit for Muscle Pain

Electrical nerve stimulation as a pain relief is proven effective. However, proper operation is necessary to maximise its benefits and minimise potential risks. To start using a TENS unit for muscle pain, identify the area where pain is present and ensure the skin is clean and dry. Refer to the instructions on the manual guide or a physical therapist for the correct electrode placement.

After determining the position of the electrode patches, place them directly on or near the pain site. Make sure to fully attach them, as they may fall off during use. Most TENS machines have adjustable intensity levels, pulse settings, and timer functions. Start low and slowly increase until there is a tingling sensation in the muscle. Constantly check for signs of skin irritation.

The typical duration of stimulation for pain relief is 20-30 minutes. When the session is complete, turn off the TENS device and remove the electrode pads. Those with preexisting medical conditions or pregnant women must consult a healthcare provider before administering a therapy session to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Pad Placement for Effective Relief

To effectively relieve sore muscles, users should place the electrode patches properly. First, they must use the appropriate sizes suitable for the area of muscle pain. For instance, large pads are more appropriate for the back or thighs. Meanwhile, smaller ones are better for neck pain or arm pain. Then, attach them directly over the affected muscles for deeper penetration.

Also, the electrodes must not be overlapping or too far apart. Experiment with different positions to find what works best in reducing discomfort. Additionally, avoid applying the pads near the eyes, on the head, or over areas with reduced sensation.


A TENS unit for muscle pain is a highly effective and non-invasive tool for managing discomfort. It sends gentle electrical impulses to the affected area. Then, it stops the pain messages from reaching the brain and stimulates the release of endorphins for natural pain relief. Its portability and ease of use make it a convenient option for individuals seeking relief from muscle soreness and tension. Moreover, its versatility allows people to manage other types of pain, like nerve pain.

To operate the TENS device, attach the electrode pads to the skin. The placement can be directly over or near the area of pain. Moreover, avoid body parts like the eyes and head, as doing so may cause further discomfort. Afterwards, select the desired settings. Ensure to follow instructions and safety guidelines to prevent concerns such as skin irritation and burns. With consistent use, TENS can provide significant relief from muscle pain and improve overall well-being.

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