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

TENS Unit for TMJ: A Complete Guide

A man grimacing in discomfort while holding his temples

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a method of pain relief that involves the use of electric currents. It works by stimulating the nerves in the affected area, which can help block pain signals and release endorphins. To use a TENS unit for TMJ, clean the treatment area. Afterwards, apply electrodes to the skin and power on the unit. Then, adjust the settings to a comfortable level.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) is a hinge connecting the jaw to the temporal bones of the skull. This joint allows people to move their jaw up and down and side to side. However, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD) may occur when there are problems with the muscles, ligaments, or joints. One of the alternative treatment methods is TENS therapy. This article will present the mechanism of action and proper usage of a TENS device for TMJ, including information about TMD.

Understanding TMD Before Using a TENS Unit for TMJ

TMD is a condition that affects the jaw joint and the muscles that control jaw movement. It can cause pain, difficulty chewing, and clicking or popping noises when opening or closing the mouth. Various factors can cause TMD, such as teeth grinding, jaw clenching, arthritis, or injury to the jaw.

A TENS unit for TMJ is a small device that sends low-voltage electrical currents to the muscles around the jaw joint. People may use it as a non-invasive treatment to help relieve pain and muscle tension associated with TMD. The electrical currents from the TENS unit only penetrate the skin to the level of the nerve fibres, less than one inch.

There are two types of TENS devices that individuals can use: standard and wireless. A standard TENS machine has a handheld push-button remote and wires securing the unit to the electrode pads. On the other hand, a wireless TENS machine utilises Bluetooth technology to connect to a smartphone app. It is popular among individuals who prefer convenient and on-the-go pain management. Nevertheless, both types deliver adequate electrical stimulation.

Common Symptoms of TMD

  • Jaw clicking or popping: some people may notice clicking or popping sounds when they open or close their mouths.
  • Headaches: TMD-related tension and muscle strain can lead to headaches, especially in the temple area.
  • Jaw stiffness: people may feel stiffness or tightness in the jaw muscles, making it uncomfortable to chew or talk.
  • Limited mouth movement: TMD can restrict the range of motion in the jaw, making it difficult to open or close the mouth thoroughly.
  • Ear discomfort: TMD may cause ear-related symptoms like ringing, fullness, or pain.
  • Jaw pain: individuals may experience discomfort or pain in the jaw joint area.

iTENS small wing kit with written features


How a TENS Unit for TMJ Works to Relieve Jaw and Facial Pain

A TENS unit for TMJ works by sending electrical impulses through adhesive electrode pads that are placed near the site of pain. These impulses elicit two general responses from the body, particularly the central nervous system. The first method is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain. During TENS treatment, the pain gate mechanism in the spinal cord closes. Thus, it blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain.

The second method involves stimulating the release of endorphins. A TENS machine lets the body produce more endorphins that help reduce painful symptoms and improve overall well-being. These chemicals bind to opioid receptors and inhibit them from sending pain messages. They are also known as natural painkillers as they have similar effects to morphine. Hence, it contributes to significant pain alleviation.

Furthermore, the use of a TENS machine creates a positive effect on the circulatory system. The electrical pulses or mild vibrations boost blood flow in the affected area. This helps to reduce inflammation, relax the muscles, and promote faster recovery of damaged tissues and nerve regeneration.

Benefits of TENS Therapy

TENS therapy treatment offers several benefits. Firstly, it is non-invasive. Secondly, the adjustable settings of a TENS device also allow for personalised treatment. Thirdly, TENS therapy can help treat a wide range of chronic pain or acute pain conditions. These include muscle pain, musculoskeletal pain, or neuropathic pain.

Fourthly, it is a drug-free method of pain relief, making it non-addictive and safe. It also provides a comfortable intensity of stimulation through the use of electrode patches. Lastly, the machine is portable, making it convenient for at-home or on-the-go use. Overall, these benefits can enhance the quality of life for individuals with TMD.

Step-bystep guide on how to operate the iTENS app


How to Use a TENS Unit for TMJ

People can use a TENS unit for TMJ in a few simple steps. To begin, they should clean and dry the area of the skin where they will apply the electrodes. Ensuring the skin is free from lotions, oils, or creams is essential. After preparing the skin, the person should carefully place the TENS electrodes on the treatment area.

Next, power on the TENS unit and adjust the intensity and frequency to a level that feels comfortable. Use the TENS unit for the recommended treatment sessions, typically 30 to 45 minutes. The individual needs to monitor their pain levels and ensure that the TENS unit is not causing any discomfort.

If the TENS unit causes discomfort or increased pain, turning it off immediately is advisable. Once the session is over, users have to remove the electrodes slowly, peeling them off the skin gently. Furthermore, it is best to clean the pads after each use and store them properly. By following these steps, people can effectively manage their TMJ and experience relief with the help of a TENS unit.

Electrode Placement Guide

Users can strategically place electrodes on both sides of the face near the temples and jawline. This placement targets the muscles surrounding the TMJ, facilitating the delivery of electrical impulses to the nerves in the region.

Electrodes are reusable for up to several applications before needing replacement. The number of uses may depend on the quality of the pads and the frequency of the treatment. In particular, self-adhesive gel pads are efficient because they do not need a conductive gel to stick them to the body. However, it requires care to prolong its life. After 20 sessions, the bond begins to diminish.


A TENS unit for TMJ offers a holistic approach to managing jaw and facial pain. By leveraging the pain gate mechanism and stimulating endorphin production, this therapy effectively mitigates discomfort associated with TMD. Moreover, the promotion of blood circulation aids in reducing inflammation, relaxing muscles, and facilitating tissue repair. People may opt for the traditional wired model or the wireless variant. Individuals with TMD can expect relief and improved quality of life through this non-invasive treatment method.

Using a TENS device for TMJ involves cleaning the skin, placing electrodes near the temples and jawline, and adjusting the settings. Sessions typically last 30 to 45 minutes. It is crucial to remove electrodes gently, clean them after each use, and store them properly. The placement targets muscles around the TMJ, delivering electrical impulses for relief. Users should be mindful of electrode lifespan, typically around 20 sessions, before replacement.

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