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

TENS Unit for Trigger Points: How It Works & the Electrode Placement

A man pressing the muscles on his shoulder

Trigger points are small knots or bumps in muscle tissue that can be hypersensitive to touch or pressure. People suffering from this condition may consider Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) as a treatment option. A TENS unit for trigger points works by delivering low-level electrical currents to the affected area, helping to alleviate pain and relax the muscles. For effective relief, place the electrode pads on the side or directly over the affected muscle.

People may acquire trigger point pain from muscle imbalances, trauma or injury, old age, vitamin deficiencies, and joint problems. In addition, it can be acute or chronic. While there are various methods to treat the system, one popular option is the use of a TENS unit. It provides a non-pharmaceutical and non-invasive method to relieve pain. In this article, we will explore TENS, including how it works and the electrode placement guide for trigger points.

What is a TENS Unit for Trigger Points?

A TENS unit is a portable device for pain relief that sends electrical pulses through electrodes placed on the skin. The device has adjustable settings to control the intensity and frequency of the currents according to individual comfort levels. It is useful for managing various types of nerve pain and muscle-related conditions, including trigger points.

Using a TENS unit for trigger points can help reduce muscle tightness and tenderness in specific areas. The device can target precise tender spots through pad placement. Moreover, it is a non-invasive treatment option. It requires less physical handling compared to yoga, massage, and chiropractic manipulation. It also does not require any needles or surgeries, making it safe and comfortable.

Furthermore, it provides a drug-free alternative to pain management. This is beneficial for individuals who may have allergies to certain medications. Chronic pain patients do not need to worry about potential long-term side effects that are usually associated with drugs. TENS machines are generally safe with no known adverse risks.

Symptoms of Trigger Points

  • Muscular pain: Stiffness and achy sensations in the muscles. This can cause localised pain in the lower back, neck, shoulders, and other areas of the body.
  • Limited range of motion: Trigger points often result in limited mobility in the affected muscle.
  • Muscle weakness: The condition can cause some motor function problems, including muscle fatigue and decreased coordination.
  • Numbness or tingling sensations: Trigger points can cause numbness and tingling sensations as a result of nerve compression.
  • Headache: A myofascial trigger point in the upper back, neck, or shoulder can cause tension headaches and jaw pain.
  • Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears when there is no external sound.

iTENS wireless TENS machines in small and large wings

How Does a TENS Unit for Trigger Points Work?

A TENS unit for trigger points works by delivering electrical pulses to stimulate the sensory nerve fibres and disrupt pain signals. A method to achieve this is using high-frequency stimulation. It involves setting the pulse rates between 50-120 Hz. This helps induce the nerves in the spinal cord to restrict the flow of pain signals from the pain site to the brain.

Another mechanism of action in which TENS works is stimulating the production of endorphins. Turning the unit setting to low-frequency triggers the body to release endorphins or natural painkillers. Endorphins contribute to pain alleviation, stress reduction, and mood enhancement. This stimulation level can also provide longer pain relief that can last for hours.

Additionally, TENS machines can improve blood circulation in the affected area. This can help reduce inflammation and release muscle knots that contribute to trigger point pain. It is important to note that the effectiveness of TENS therapy may vary from person to person. Therefore, it is vital to familiarise oneself with the settings of electrical stimulation to find the most optimal result.

Benefits of Using TENS

TENS therapy offers several benefits for people with acute and chronic pain conditions. Firstly, it can significantly reduce pain intensity without the aid of medications. Secondly, it can provide immediate relief from musculoskeletal pain and tension. It also allows improved mobility, such as the cervical range of motion for patients with chronic neck pain.

Additionally, TENS therapy can speed up the recovery process of injuries and even postoperative pain. Lastly, it helps reduce tight muscles and fatigue. With the versatility of the device, individuals can use TENS therapy in the comfort of their own homes or anywhere they may need pain relief.

A woman pressing a button on the wireless TENS machine on her shoulder

Electrode Placement When Using a TENS Unit for Trigger Points

Proper electrode placement is crucial when using a TENS unit for trigger points. This positioning will depend on the specific points that cause pain. Before using the device, it is vital to locate the trigger points. Individuals can use their fingers to identify the most tender and tight spots in the muscles. It can feel like a small pea or a tight band of tissue located deep in the muscle belly.

After locating the trigger point, attach the electrode pads to that specific spot. Users may feel a tingling or pulsating sensation as the TENS unit sends electric currents to the area. Alternatively, individuals may position a set of electrodes on either side of the pain. More pads may be required, depending on the coverage of the pain area.

It is advisable to experiment with or alter the placement of the electrodes to find the most effective position for pain relief. Some people find that placing the electrodes directly on the trigger point provides the best results, while others may find better relief by positioning the electrodes slightly outside the area.

How to Operate the Device

Before using a TENS device, it is important to clean the treatment area and remove any oil, lotion, or dirt. Then, stick the electrodes and ensure they do not move around. Once in place, turn on the machine and adjust the settings. Set the frequency and pulse duration intensity to the desired level.

Start with a low intensity and gradually increase until the pulsating sensation is strong but comfortable. Users may also choose between continuous, burst, and modulation modes, which deliver different patterns of electrical signals. Always keep within the recommended range to avoid skin irritation or potential complications.


Using a TENS unit for trigger points can be an effective and convenient method for managing pain and discomfort. It is a portable device that sends mild electric pulses through the skin to stimulate the nerves. These pulses are adjustable to different frequencies and intensities to provide personalised pain relief. Additionally, it is a drug-free and non-invasive method without adverse effects. It also promotes muscle relaxation and better blood circulation.

Proper usage and electrode placement are key to maximising the benefits of TENS therapy. By identifying the tender and tight spots in the muscles, users can strategically position the TENS pads for targeted relief. Likewise, follow the appropriate settings from the manufacturer or health professional for safe and effective use. TENS machines are available in various types, such as traditional and wireless. They can be purchased online, like iTENS Australia for the wireless TENS machine.

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