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

TENS Unit for Tendonitis in Shoulder: Is It Effective?

An elderly woman pressing her shoulder

Tendonitis is a common condition in the shoulder that often occurs due to overuse or injury. While traditional treatments like medicines and physical therapy can help, many people are turning to alternative options. One of these options is Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), which is a non-invasive form of pain management. A TENS unit for tendonitis in shoulder uses mild electrical currents to effectively alleviate pain and restore the range of motion.

There are many ways to relieve tendonitis pain. The common treatments are rest, ice, physical therapy, and medication. However, these treatments may not always be convenient for others. This is where TENS therapy can be beneficial. Using a TENS machine is cost-effective. People can manage pain without going to a clinic. In this article, we will explore tendonitis conditions and how a TENS unit works to relieve pain. It will also help guide pad placement for effective use.

Understanding the Condition Before Using a TENS Unit for Tendonitis in Shoulder

Tendonitis in the shoulder is an inflammatory condition that affects the rotator cuff or biceps tendon. The rotator cuff consists of the muscles and tendons in the shoulder. They connect the upper arm bone to your shoulder blade. In addition, the tendons play a crucial role in allowing the shoulder joint to move and function properly.

Inflammation or irritation to the tendons can cause pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion. Thus, using a TENS unit for tendonitis in shoulder can help alleviate these discomforts. A TENS machine is a portable device that utilises electrical impulses to relieve pain. It consists of a remote control and adhesive electrode pads.

The device has adjustable settings to control the strength of the electrical pulses based on individual comfort levels. Therefore, it can provide tailored pain relief that suits specific needs. This device is suitable for acute pain like injuries or chronic pain due to an underlying illness. It is also important to be aware of any potential risks or contraindications before using the device.

Causes of Shoulder Tendonitis

  • Repetitive overhead movements, such as throwing or weightlifting. It also includes work that requires frequent reaching or lifting, like construction work.
  • Poor posture or shoulder mechanics.
  • Muscle imbalances or weakness in the shoulder or upper back.
  • Age-related wear and tear of the tendons. Shoulder joints become less flexible and more prone to injury.
  • Trauma or injury to the shoulder joint. It commonly occurs due to playing sports like tennis, baseball, volleyball or swimming.
  • Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes that can weaken tendons.
  • Lack of proper conditioning or exercise prior to strenuous activity.
  • Genetic factors that may predispose individuals to tendonitis.

A woman manually operating a wireless TENS machine on her shoulder

Mechanisms of Action Behind TENS Unit for Tendonitis in Shoulder

A TENS unit for tendonitis in shoulder works using various mechanisms of action. The device works by sending electrical pulses through the electrodes placed on the skin near the affected area. One of the key mechanisms of TENS is to block pain signals. This process stimulates certain nerve fibres in the spinal cord to interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain, thereby reducing the sensation of pain.

Additionally, TENS therapy can stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the natural painkillers of the body. Endorphins inhibit nerve cells from sending pain messages to the brain. This promotes a sense of well-being and provides pain relief that lasts for hours.

Moreover, a TENS unit can help improve blood circulation and promote healing of the injured shoulder. By increasing blood flow to the area, it reduces inflammation, swelling, and stiffness, which are common symptoms of tendonitis. This improved circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients, speeding up the healing process and improving joint flexibility.

Understanding Low and High Frequencies

The frequency or pulse rate plays a significant role in determining the effectiveness of the TENS treatment. Low-frequency TENS uses pulse rates of 2-10 Hz. It provides motor level stimulation that triggers the body to release endorphins. This is suitable for chronic conditions like tendonitis.

On the other hand, high-frequency TENS operates on 50-120 Hz, providing sensory level stimulation. It creates a tingling sensation that helps block pain signals from reaching the brain. This level is suitable for shoulder injuries due to falls or sports activities. However, this electrical stimulation setting often lasts for a shorter duration while using the device.

A woman manually operating a wireless TENS machine on her shoulder

Pad Placement When Using a TENS Unit for Tendonitis in Shoulder

Proper pad placement when using a TENS unit for tendonitis in shoulder is crucial for effective relief. The first step is to identify the location of the pain in the shoulder. Typically, place the electrode pads on the bulk of the shoulder muscle and to the edge of the shoulder. Make sure to avoid pad placement directly over any bones or joints.

Another placement is to target the area where the tendonitis is most prominent. For example, if the pain is concentrated in the front of the shoulder where the biceps tendon attaches, place one electrode pad there and another on the back of the shoulder near the scapula. This will help to cover a larger area and provide more comprehensive relief.

Furthermore, users may place the pads on each side of the cervical spine to relieve both shoulder and neck pain. Ensure the skin is clean and dry before putting the electrodes. Lastly, experiment with different placement positions to find the most effective spot for pain relief.

How to Use the Device

To start TENS therapy, start by placing the electrodes on the treatment area. Turn on the unit and adjust the pulse duration, intensity, and frequency settings. It is best to keep the intensity level low at the beginning of the session. Then, gradually increase the intensity until the tingling sensation is strong but comfortable.

Use the TENS unit for at least 15 minutes but not more than one hour per session, depending on the severity of the condition. Additionally, follow the safety precautions when using the device. In particular, avoid sensitive areas, such as the front and sides of the neck and the spine.


Using a TENS unit for tendonitis in shoulder is one way to relieve pain without medications. The portable device delivers electrical pulses directly to the affected area to relieve pain. It works by blocking the transmission of pain signals, releasing endorphins, and improving blood circulation. Thus, aside from pain relief, it can also promote healing. Individuals may use it for the treatment of acute shoulder injuries or the management of chronic shoulder pain.

The TENS machine is easy to operate. It allows users to control the stimulation based on their comfort level and pain severity. In addition, proper pad placement is essential for effective relief, targeting the specific area of discomfort. By following the guidelines on frequency, intensity, and duration, individuals can experience significant pain alleviation and improved function in their shoulders. Overall, a TENS unit can be a valuable tool in managing shoulder pain.

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