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

TENS Unit for Quad Activation: Electrode Placement Guide

iTENS electrodes and refill gel pads

The quadricep muscles play a crucial role in various lower-body movements. However, it can be difficult to engage these muscles fully during exercises. Fortunately, a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for quad activation can help individuals engage these muscles and optimise their training, workout, or rehabilitation routine. It can also help provide relief from pain from injuries. To use a TENS machine, the individual must apply the electrode pads on the quad muscles and adjust the settings accordingly.

TENS therapy is an electrical stimulation treatment method primarily meant to alleviate pain from various conditions, including knee joint injuries. It provides many beneficial effects, which is why many use them. People usually utilise Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) machines to increase muscle strength and tone. However, TENS can also provide quadriceps activation in individuals to help with physical function. This article will present information about the role of quad muscles, how TENS works, and electrode placement.

Understanding the Role of Quad Muscles Before Using a TENS Unit for Quad Activation

Before using a TENS unit for quad activation, individuals must understand the role of quads. The quadriceps or quad muscles are a group of five muscles located in the front of the thigh. There only used to be four muscles, as implied in the name, but an addition was made due to a recent discovery. The muscles are the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, tensor of the vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, and vastus medialis.

The quadriceps muscles play a crucial part in mobility since it is responsible for movements, such as knee flexions, knee extensions, and straightening of the legs. These muscles, together with the hamstring muscles, work to lift and lower the legs while jumping, cycling, and running. Moreover, the quadriceps regulate the gait and help absorb the force produced when the heel hits the ground after taking a step.

People rely on the quadriceps muscles to do many functional activities, such as walking and sitting. Hence, they are also prone to overuse and injury during daily activities or training. Fortunately, TENS can help with activation and provide pain relief using electrical stimulation.

Benefits of Using TENS

  • Non-invasive: Unlike knee surgery, TENS does not require procedures like injections and incisions. This removes the risks of infections and other complications. Moreover, it does not necessitate a recovery time period after the session.
  • Drug-free: People do not need to take medicines for TENS therapy to produce effects. This enables them to avoid possible adverse events from consuming medications.
  • Portable: Individuals may use TENS in various locations, such as at home, the gym, or work.
  • Complementary: TENS works well with other treatment methods. This includes therapeutic exercises and resistive exercises.
  • Pain relief: TENS can help alleviate hip, thigh, and knee pain.

A guide on how to use the iTENS app

How a TENS Unit for Quad Activation Works

A TENS machine delivers low-voltage electrical currents to the body to stimulate the nerves. The electrical stimulation unit comes with adjustable settings that allow users to customise the session according to their needs. Most TENS units let individuals control the frequency, intensity, pulse duration, and pulse-width settings.

People can utilise a TENS unit for quad activation by using high-frequency and intensity levels to cause muscle contraction. This is useful for athletes and individuals recovering from injuries and needing to increase their quadriceps muscle strength. Moreover, TENS can increase the blood flow to the area, which can help improve the rate of healing. In addition, this can relax muscle tension and reduce inflammation.

Furthermore, TENS can relieve and decrease patient pain by triggering the pain-gating mechanism and endorphin production. This can help individuals by removing the discomfort from aches and muscular fatigue. Lastly, endorphins can reduce stress and improve moods. Altogether, TENS can provide various clinical benefits. In particular, a previous study found that undergoing TENS therapy while doing therapeutic exercise and daily activities increases quad activation in patients.

Frequencies and Intensities

Using the correct frequencies and intensities during a TENS therapy session is crucial to get the desired results. The frequency refers to the number of electrical pulses delivered per second. Hertz (Hz) is the standard of measurement for this. Meanwhile, the intensity relates to the strength of the electric pulses.

Typically, TENS machines have a frequency range of 1-150 Hz and an intensity range of 0-80 mA. Some combo TENS and EMS units may offer wider ranges for higher costs. For treatment, people utilise high frequencies (50-120 Hz) for acute pain conditions. Meanwhile, low frequencies (2-10 Hz) are for chronic pain conditions.

A person removing the film from an iTENS pad

Electrode Placement When Using a TENS Unit for Quad Activation

Proper electrode placement is crucial when using a TENS unit for quad activation. Thus, people check placement charts and guides before applying the adhesive electrodes to the skin. In addition, users should carefully choose the electrode size and shape that will fit the area where they will attach the adhesive electrode pads.

Generally, patients should place the pads on the muscles near or on the pain source. Hence, for quadriceps muscle activation, they must apply the adhesive electrodes on the front of the thighs. They may use multiple pads for stronger electric stimulation. However, they must ensure they are at least an inch apart to prevent possible interference.

In addition, they must be careful and avoid applying the adhesive electrodes on skin patches that are irritated, infected, or broken. They must also evade the bones and the knee joint itself. Individuals interested in using TENS may also consult a medical professional or athletic trainer regarding the placement for quad activation.

How to Operate the Device

To start the treatment session, the user must apply the electrodes to the target area. Next, they must connect the pads and the control unit using wires or Bluetooth. Afterwards, they may turn the machine on and adjust the settings accordingly.

It is best to start with the lowest stimulation levels and gradually increase them. They may also select a pre-set mode if it is available for their condition. TENS sessions typically last between 15 and 30 minutes. The session time depends on the settings used and the health of the patient. When the time elapses, they may turn it off and remove the pads.


Using a TENS unit for quad activation is an effective method of engaging these muscles. It works by sending low-voltage electrical pulses to the muscles for muscle contraction. This can help engage muscle function and possibly reduce muscle atrophy due to inactivity. TENS also helps block pain signals and triggers endorphin production to alleviate pain from injuries. Overall, the electrical nerve stimulation device brings many beneficial effects for this crucial muscle group of the body.

The quadriceps are crucial for daily activities and basic movements, such as sitting, running, and walking. These work together with the hamstrings to lift and lower the leg but are also prone to injuries and muscular fatigue. To use TENS for the quadriceps, the individual must apply the pads on the skin above these quads and adjust the pulse duration and intensity levels accordingly. This stimulation can also help with knee joint injuries, especially when paired together with therapeutic exercise.

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