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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Unit for Neuropathy: Is It the Best Treatment Solution?

A person holding their right hand due to pain

Neuropathy is a condition that occurs when there is damage to the nerves. It leads to pain and numbness. This condition significantly impacts the quality of life. Hence, it makes everyday activities a struggle. Fortunately, a wide range of pain management options is available, like medications and regular visits to a physical therapist. However, the best treatment solution is using a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for neuropathy. It offers a drug-free and non-invasive method of pain relief.

Chronic pain from conditions such as diabetic neuropathy and peripheral neuropathy is difficult to handle. This is where an electrical nerve stimulation device comes in. It is a portable unit that produces mild electrical impulses through adhesive electrodes. This non-pharmacological treatment then alleviates discomfort and improves blood flow. To know more about it, the following sections will present how it works, how to operate it, and the safety considerations to keep in mind.

How TENS Unit for Neuropathy Works as the Best Treatment Solution

A TENS unit for neuropathy is a popular method of pain relief. The battery-operated device delivers low-voltage electrical current to the nerves. TENS helps to block or disrupt the pain signals from reaching the brain. This is based on the idea of Pain Gate Theory, which postulates that electrical stimulation of nerve fibres can interfere with pain messages. In essence, this prevents or reduces pain sensations.

Moreover, many health professionals, like physical therapists, utilise TENS because it can naturally relieve discomfort without using pain medicines. It boosts the release of endorphins, which are natural painkillers. Thus, it provides a relaxing and calming sensation to people suffering from neuropathy. Furthermore, TENS reduces inflammation by increasing blood circulation.

Individuals can use TENS to treat neuropathic conditions, as well as various types of chronic pain, including arthritis and fibromyalgia. Those with spinal cord injuries can also rely on TENS. However, they must not place the electrode patches directly on the spine. Additionally, TENS is customisable, making it the best treatment for different types of pain in people.

Types of Neuropathy

  • Diabetic neuropathy – affects the nerves throughout the body, causing symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness.
  • Peripheral neuropathy – affects the peripheral nerves, which connect the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. The pain is usually in the hands and feet.
  • Autonomic neuropathy – affects the nerves that control involuntary bodily functions. This leads to symptoms such as dizziness, digestive issues, and sexual dysfunction.
  • Proximal neuropathy – affects the nerves in the thighs, hips, or buttocks. It causes weakness and pain in these areas.
  • Focal neuropathy – affects a single nerve, causing sudden and severe symptoms like paralysis in the affected site.

A person placing a TENS unit on the wrist of a sitting elderly woman

How to Operate a TENS Unit for Neuropathy

TENS is an effective pain relief option, but people should use it correctly for optimal results. Before operating a TENS unit for neuropathy, ensure the device has fresh batteries or is fully charged. Then, attach the electrode patches to the area of pain. Once they are in place, turn the machine on. Start with the lowest setting to avoid sudden shocks. Slowly increase it until the pain levels decrease.

In addition, individuals can choose from different pre-set modes, which modify and improve the electric nerve stimulation. Some are meant for neuropathy, while others are more general. It is essential to choose the correct mode to get the best results. As the session progresses, they may feel tingling sensations.

Each treatment duration should only last for 20-30 minutes. Leaving the TENS device on too long can cause discomfort. After the session, turn the unit off and remove the electrodes. Regularly clean it by using a damp cloth. Store the machine and the pads in a dry place. Proper operation and care allow a TENS machine to be a valuable tool.

Where to Place the Electrodes?

Relevant studies state that the electrode placement of TENS is crucial for providing targeted pain relief. The recommended placement is to position the electrode patches around the area where the pain or numbness is most prominent. This could be on the feet, lower legs, hands, or wrists, depending on the specific location of the nerve damage.

Another electrode position is along the nerve pathways that are affected by neuropathy. This includes placing them along the sciatic nerve for lower back or leg neuropathy or along the ulnar nerve for hand or arm neuropathy. Following this placement guide can ensure optimal results.

A person peeling the sheet from a TENS pad

Safety Considerations When Using a TENS Unit for Neuropathy

When using a TENS unit for neuropathy, it is vital to prioritise safety. Always follow the instructions from the manufacturer. Likewise, consult with a doctor to receive guidance on proper usage. Furthermore, individuals can research evidence-based reviews for more knowledge about using TENS for different conditions. This can lead to effective relief of pain in people.

Another consideration is to avoid using the TENS device near the head, neck, or over the heart. Additionally, people with certain medical conditions should not use it without speaking with a doctor. This includes people with epilepsy or implanted medical devices like pacemakers. Also, monitor the skin for signs of irritation, burning, or numbness.

Proper maintenance and care of the TENS unit are essential for safety. Regularly check the pads for wear or damage. As the electrode pads age, they can become less efficient in delivering electrical pulses. Thus, it is advisable to replace them after 15-20 applications. Also, it is a standard error not to remove dirt and dust on the electrode patches. However, it is necessary to clean them for proper adhesion.

Are There Potential Side Effects?

Yes, there are potential side effects to using TENS machines. Some users may experience minor skin irritation or allergic reactions to the adhesive pads. They may experience redness or itchiness. Additionally, using a TENS unit at too high of a frequency or intensity may cause muscle twitching, tingling, or discomfort.

In rare cases, TENS machines may interfere with implanted devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators. Hence, buying hypoallergenic pads, controlling the settings properly, and consulting a health professional is crucial when utilising TENS. Overall, the possible side effects are minimal. Users can manage them with proper guidance and precautions.


A TENS unit for neuropathy is a drug-free and non-invasive treatment approach. It delivers mild electrical impulses to the affected area. Subsequently, it blocks pain signals and stimulates the production of endorphins. This provides relief from discomfort and improves the overall quality of life of individuals with neuropathy. However, TENS can also manage different types of pain in people. With its ease of use, TENS can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive pain management plan.

When operating TENS machines, carefully follow the manual and consult with a healthcare provider for guidance. This is especially true for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Make sure to correctly place the electrodes on the skin. Moreover, adjust the intensity of the electrical impulses to a comfortable level. For other safety considerations, users should avoid placing TENS near the eyes or over the chest area. When used correctly, TENS can offer a safe and effective way to alleviate neuropathy.

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