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

TENS Unit for Muscle Strain: A Comprehensive Guide

A person with pain in the back of the leg

Muscle strains can occur from everyday activities or strenuous workouts, causing discomfort and limited mobility. One of the convenient ways to manage pain is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). Using a TENS unit for muscle strain is simple and easy. Individuals should properly place the electrodes on the target area and adjust the settings according to their comfort level. Also, they must prepare the skin by cleaning it and ensuring it is dry before applying the electrodes.

Injury to the ligament or muscle can be painful and debilitating. It requires proper care and treatment to promote healing and relieve pain. While traditional methods can help, they may not be enough to provide immediate and long-lasting relief. This is where a TENS unit can come in handy. The following sections will explore what a TENS machine is, how it reduces pain, and how to use it for muscle strain relief.

What is a TENS Unit for Muscle Strain?

A TENS unit is a battery-operated device that uses low-voltage electrical currents to relieve pain and promote muscle relaxation. It is often portable and can be used anywhere. It consists of a handheld unit with adjustable controls and adhesive electrode pads. Moreover, using a TENS unit for muscle strain is a drug-free and non-invasive method of pain management.

TENS machines come in various types, functionalities, and features. It is vital to choose a device that suits the specific needs and preferences of the individual. Some units may have different modes, intensity levels, and pre-programmed settings that cater to various types of pain. This allows for personalised treatment based on the severity of the strain and personal comfort.

Individuals may choose between standard (wired) and wireless devices. Wireless TENS machines use Bluetooth technology to control the stimulation from a smartphone. TENS also utilises different battery types, such as replaceable and rechargeable batteries. However, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a healthcare provider when using TENS for muscle strain to ensure appropriate settings and pad placement.

Causes of Muscle Strain

  • Muscle strain is when the muscle is stretched or pulled too far or put too much pressure on it.
  • Overuse or repetitive movements can strain the muscles.
  • Poor posture or body mechanics.
  • Lack of proper warm-up or stretching before exercise.
  • Muscle imbalances or weakness.
  • Sudden or excessive force or impact on a muscle. This is common when playing sports or getting into an accident.
  • Improper technique or form during exercise.
  • Improper lifting or carrying heavy objects.
  • Inadequate rest or recovery between workouts.
  • Underlying health conditions, such as polymyositis or muscle atrophy. Polymyositis is an inflammatory disease that weakens the muscles and causes pain.

Smartphone app guide to set the frequency and intensity of a TENS machine

How Does a TENS Unit for Muscle Strain Help?

Using a TENS unit for muscle strain relief can be highly beneficial. Firstly, it alleviates pain by sending electrical pulses to the affected muscles. These pulses stimulate certain nerve fibres in the spinal cord to block pain signals from reaching the brain. In addition, it induces the release of natural painkillers like endorphins, providing temporary relief from discomfort.

Secondly, TENS can help to reduce inflammation and swelling associated with muscle strain or sprains. The electric currents stimulate healthy blood flow to the affected area, promoting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. The improved blood circulation aids in the reduction of inflammation, shortening the recovery time of damaged muscles and soft tissues.

Lastly, a TENS unit also promotes muscle relaxation. Pulled muscles often lead to muscle tension and tightness, causing further discomfort and limited mobility. Stimulating the nerves in the muscles can help loosen muscle knots and improve the range of motion. TENS can also relieve muscle spasms, cramps, and other musculoskeletal pain.

Adjusting the Frequency and Intensity

TENS machines have programmable settings to allow a personalised pain therapy system. The frequency is the number of pulses per second, also known as Hertz (Hz). Lower frequencies, such as 2-10 Hz, are typically suitable for chronic pain conditions. Meanwhile, higher frequencies, like 50-120 Hz, are more suitable for acute pain management.

Intensity refers to the strength or power of the electric currents, measured in milliamperes (mA). To adjust the settings, press the increase or decrease button of the device until the sensations are at a comfortable level. It is best to change the levels slowly to avoid overwhelming the body.

A person wearing four wireless TENS machines at once

How to Use a TENS Unit for Muscle Strain

To use TENS for relief of pain, first, identify the exact location of electrode placement. As a general guide, the TENS unit placement is on the side of the target sore muscles. Next, turn on the machine and set the appropriate frequency and intensity. A high-frequency stimulation is ideal for chronic pain relief like a muscle strain. In addition, begin with the lowest intensity level and increase it gradually.

During the treatment program, monitor how the body responds to the electrical stimulation and adjust the settings if there are signs of discomfort or skin irritation. If it makes the pain worse or has adverse effects, discontinue use and consult a doctor or pain management professional. Thus, always follow the recommended levels and avoid exceeding them.

It is advisable to use the TENS unit for muscle strain for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, multiple times a day. However, ensure to give at least 20 minutes of break time between each session. After use, turn off the device before removing the electrode patches. Wipe off any excess gel and store it properly.

Preparing the Device and Applying Electrodes

To prepare the TENS machine, make sure the device is fully charged or has fresh batteries. Next, attach the cables to the unit and the pads. If it is a wireless device, connect it to the smartphone via Bluetooth. Additionally, ensure the use of new or clean electrode pads for optimal adhesion.

Before applying the electrodes, clean the skin area with mild soap and water and pat them to completely dry. Subsequently, remove the plastic liner and place the electrode patches on the affected area. However, avoid placement on broken skin, wounds, or rashes to avoid triggering potential skin irritations.


Strains or ligament injuries can cause severe muscle pain and limit movements. Fortunately, using a TENS unit for muscle strain offers a drug-free and non-invasive method of pain relief. It is an ideal alternative for those who want to avoid the intake of pain medications and their potential side effects. The device delivers mild electric currents to the nerves to block pain signals to the brain, reducing pain sensations.

Using the TENS machine is simple, but it is essential to follow the safety guidelines. This includes correct electrode placement and adjustments of frequency and intensity. Likewise, avoid sensitive areas to prevent further discomfort or worsening of the muscle strain. It is best to consult a doctor or physical therapist for guidance and avoid risks. With proper usage, individuals can experience effective pain relief and get back to their active lives faster.

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