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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Unit for Venous Insufficiency: What It Is, How It Works, and How to Use

A woman showing the varicose veins in her foot and leg

Venous insufficiency is a common condition wherein the veins in the legs struggle to pump blood back to the heart due to obstructions. This causes swelling, discomfort, and even pain. One response to help with this is using Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). A TENS unit for venous insufficiency uses low-voltage electric currents to increase blood circulation. It can also help reduce inflammation. To use TENS, the user must apply the electrodes to the target area and adjust the settings.

Transcutaneous nerve stimulation is primarily used as an alternative pain management method. It uses high frequencies to trigger the spinal nerve cells to block pain signals and low frequencies to induce endorphin release. However, it can also stimulate the nerves to alter flow patterns and improve previously poor circulation. This is ideal to help with venous return. This article will present information on using TENS devices for venous insufficiency, how they work, and how to use them.

What is a TENS Unit for Venous Insufficiency?

Venous insufficiency is a vascular disease wherein venous blood flow in the leg experiences obstructions due to various causes. The two common reasons are due to blood clots and varicose veins. This leads to poor circulation in the legs and feet, leading to significant pain. To treat this, many turn to physical therapy or wearing compression socks for additional pressure on the legs.

Another option is to use a TENS unit for venous insufficiency. TENS machines are battery-operated medical devices that send low-voltage electrical currents to the body. It can have various therapeutic outcomes, including increasing blood circulation and healing rate using electrical stimulation.

These units are commonly seen in medical settings. However, people may also use them at home. Generally, there are two types of TENS units to select from. The traditional or handheld units use lead cables to send the electrical currents from the main unit to the electrodes. Meanwhile, wireless units utilise Bluetooth to control the output of the electrodes on the skin. Some units also offer direct current settings adjustments on the electrodes themselves.

Prevalence and Impact of the Condition

Venous insufficiency is a common problem among women over the age of 50. However, there are also other causes for it, such as genetics, previous leg injuries, smoking, and sitting or standing for long periods. This disease may cause the following impacts on an individual:

  • The development of venous ulcers, often near the ankles.
  • Slow discolouration and changes in the skin textures of the legs and ankles.
  • Increased frequency of leg cramps.
  • Edema or swelling of the ankles and legs.
  • Itchiness and muscle weakness of the legs.
  • Occurrence of aches and heaviness in the lower extremities.
  • Uncomfortable tingling sensations in the legs.

A female newscaster reporting about TENS

How a TENS Unit for Venous Insufficiency Works

Many researchers have conducted clinical studies to determine if using a TENS unit for venous insufficiency works. Fortunately, many have also shown positive outcomes on calf muscle pumps by TENS units. TENS is mainly known in clinical practice for its effectiveness in promoting analgesia for various conditions. However, it also has other beneficial effects, which people with venous stasis can benefit from.

In particular, TENS therapy can increase blood flow to the target area, which can help prevent or reduce venous stasis. It does this by using high-frequency stimulation to produce a massage-like effect. This can also alleviate soreness in the soleus muscle and others near the muscle location. Moreover, it can help improve the rate of healing of ulcers and chronic wounds since the new blood carries nutrients for regeneration.

On the other hand, low-frequency TENS triggers the production of endorphins. These hormones are natural painkillers that bind to opioid receptors to reduce the overall pain. It also promotes a better sense of well-being by improving moods and reducing stress.

Understanding Frequencies and Intensities

Understanding the frequencies and intensities of TENS machines is crucial for optimising effectiveness. The frequency refers to the number of electrical pulses delivered per second. This is measured in Hertz (Hz). High frequencies for TENS range between 50-120 Hz. Meanwhile, low-frequency TENS lies from 2-10 Hz.

On the other hand, intensities refer to the strength of electrical currents delivered to the nerves. A general tip when using TENS is to start with low intensities and gradually increase them as needed. This allows the body to adjust to the electrical nerve stimulation. It can also prevent discomfort or sudden shocks to the TENS subject.

A person removing the film from an iTENS pad

How to Use a TENS Unit for Venous Insufficiency

Using a TENS unit for venous insufficiency is a straightforward process. Nevertheless, it is crucial to be careful when using electrical stimulation devices. People may study the instruction manual of their device to ensure proper use of their unit. They may also consult a health professional to help with pad placement and settings adjustment.

To use a TENS unit, the user must apply adhesive electrodes on muscles near or on the pain area. Once they are secure, they may connect it to the main unit. They may use wires or Bluetooth, depending on their device. Afterwards, they can turn their unit on and adjust the settings accordingly.

The treatment time for a regular TENS session is between 15 to 30 minutes. However, they may extend this depending on the advice of a health professional. Nevertheless, they must avoid overusing it to prevent adverse effects. After the treatment time lapses, they may turn it off and remove the TENS pads. They may use the machine again after a 20-minute break if needed.

Pad Placement Guide

Proper pad placement is essential for effective electrical nerve stimulation. Typically, TENS pads are applied to muscles near or on the pain source. However, for venous insufficiency treatment, users must be careful to avoid the varicose veins themselves. This is because applying pads to the nerve locations may cause adverse effects.

For additional safety, consulting a healthcare provider is ideal. Moreover, individuals must also avoid lower extremity wounds when using TENS devices to help with venous flow. Instead, apply them on clean and intact skin a few inches away. This may still help with venous velocity.


Using a TENS unit for venous insufficiency is an effective method of improving blood circulation and venous return. A TENS machine is a medical device that uses low-voltage electric currents to stimulate the sensory nerves for pain relief. It can also improve blood circulation and reduce swelling, which is helpful for people with venous insufficiency. Moreover, it can also enhance the healing rate of leg ulcers and other wounds.

Using a TENS device is simple. It is easy to self-administer and use whenever needed. It starts by applying the TENS pads to the target area. Then, the user can adjust the settings. Afterwards, they can turn it off and remove it. Nevertheless, consulting a health professional is crucial to ensure safety. They may also advise on the placement and settings to use. People interested in using TENS may consider the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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