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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Unit for Neuropathic Pain: What It Is, How It Works, and How to Use

An elderly man holding his hand due to nerve pain

A daily life with nerve pain can be debilitating. Fortunately, there is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for neuropathic pain. It consists of a battery-operated device that delivers electrical impulses to the nerves. This electrical stimulation works by interrupting the pain signals sent to the brain. Accordingly, it may also promote the production of endorphins. To use a TENS machine, one needs to place the electrodes, choose suitable settings, and activate the stimulation.

Neuropathic conditions are complex ailments that arise from damage or dysfunction of the nervous system. This may include conditions such as diabetic neuropathies, sciatica, phantom limb pain, and peripheral neuropathy. Traditional treatments often fall short of providing pain control, leading many individuals to seek out alternative methods. One such method is the use of electric nerve stimulation. This article will present TENS for the condition, including how it works and how to use it.

What is a TENS Unit for Neuropathic Pain?

A TENS unit for neuropathic pain is a treatment intervention that sends electrical pulses to the affected nerves. This helps manage the conditions by working in different mechanisms. TENS therapy provides clinical evidence of effectiveness. As a result, it is a common method of pain relief in numerous healthcare providers and clinics. Accordingly, people may use the portable versions at home or on the go.

The pain management tool comes in two main types: wired and wireless. Wired TENS devices have lead cables to connect the electrodes to the main unit. On the other hand, wireless TENS are small, compact, and do not require wires for electrode connections. Hence, it offers increased mobility and convenience. People can manually control it or through a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Also, these devices offer various features to optimise the treatment effects and distinct outcomes. Adjustable settings allow users to control the frequency, intensity, and duration of the electrical impulses. Some TENS may also include pre-set programs for a more direct treatment session. Moreover, there are TENS that offer multiple electrode channels to enable targeting specific areas at once.

Causes of Neuropathic Pain

  • Diabetes: this can lead to diabetic neuropathies, a condition in which prolonged high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the nerves.
  • Injuries: accidents, traumas, or surgical procedures can damage the nerves. These types of pain can manifest as sharp, shooting sensation or persistent burning.
  • Infections: certain viral or bacterial infections, such as herpes zoster, can cause the ailment.
  • Autoimmune disorders: conditions such as multiple sclerosis or lupus can trigger the immune system to attack its own nerves.
  • Nerve compression: conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, in which the median nerve in the wrist is compressed. This can cause nerve ailment in the hand and arm.

A woman using wireless TENS on her arm and lower back

How a TENS Unit for Neuropathic Pain Works

The TENS unit for neuropathic pain operates by sending electrical impulses to the nerves via electrode pads. Accordingly, the mechanism through which TENS alleviates radicular pain involves a few key concepts. The use of TENS can prompt the release of endorphins, the natural painkillers of the body. Endorphins bind opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing the pain in people.

Another fundamental concept of the operation of TENS is the pain gate mechanism. According to this theory, the nervous system contains a gate that controls the transmission of pain signals to the brain. When TENS delivers stimulation, it activates non-painful sensory nerves. As a result, it helps close the gate and blocks the pain signals. Thereby, it provides a reduction in pain intensity and pain scale.

Furthermore, the frequency of electrical stimulation plays a crucial role in determining the treatment of pain. High-frequency TENS typically operates above 50 Hz. This type of stimulation is beneficial in managing acute conditions. Meanwhile, low-frequency TENS operates below 10 Hz and is often referred to as acupuncture for pain. This stimulation is valuable for chronic pain conditions.


TENS offers a range of benefits for people with pain conditions. Firstly, the portability of the device enables individuals to undergo relief at any time of the day and have discreet sessions. Secondly, TENS are highly customisable. This offers people the ability to tailor the settings to suit their specific needs and preferences.

In addition, TENS are popular due to their cost-effectiveness. They offer a one-time investment for a long-term method of pain relief. Hence, it eliminates the ongoing cost of clinical assessment and oral medications. Moreover, TENS offer a non-invasive and drug-free approach. It does not require surgeries, injections, or drug dosages.

A woman manually operating a TENS unit on her hand

How to Use a TENS Unit for Neuropathic Pain

Using a TENS unit for neuropathic pain involves simple steps. Before undergoing TENS therapy, it is vital to consult a medical professional. They can give guidance on whether TENS is suitable as a treatment for pain for a specific condition. Before use, make sure that the device has fresh batteries or adequate charge. Attach the electrodes to the machine using wires or connect it to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

The next step is to prepare the treatment area. Then, place the pads following the proper electrode placement. Once the electrodes are in place, the user can turn on the device. Some machines may allow the person to adjust the settings or choose a pre-set program. Nevertheless, it is advisable to start with the lowest settings and gradually increase it to adequate intensities, particularly at a comfortable level.

When the settings are adjusted, the user can activate the stimulation. The individual should pay attention to their comfort level. Accordingly, the advisable treatment duration is 15 to 30 minutes. Once the session is complete, turn off the device and carefully remove the electrodes.

Proper Pad Placement

Start by identifying the source of the nerve ailment. Before placing the pads, it is important to clean and dry the treatment region. Remove oils, lotion, water and dirt. Depending on the location of the pain, the electrode pads should be placed strategically to cover the affected nerve pathways. Hence, do not place the pads on sensitive areas of the body to avoid skin irritation and further discomfort.

If the initial pad placement does not provide adequate relief, people can carefully adjust the position of the electrode pads. It is vital to seek medical help or read the user manual for precise pad placement.


In summary, TENS is an effective solution for managing painful conditions, particularly neuropathic pain. The nerve ailment may be caused by diabetes, injuries, infections, autoimmune disorders, and nerve compression. Nevertheless, there is a TENS unit for neuropathic pain to alleviate the condition. It consists of an electrical device that delivers electrical impulses. This works by blocking the pain signals and prompting the release of endorphins. The stimulation can also stream in low and high frequencies.

People can utilise the device in a simple process. They need to identify the treatment area, position the electrodes and choose the suitable settings. Additionally, TENS can provide numerous benefits and improve the quality of life. It is portable, cost-effective, customisable, non-invasive, drug-free, and can be discreetly used. However, users need to know the proper pad placement for optimal results. TENS is available in the market, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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