TENS unit for pain

A TENS unit is an effective therapy method used to relieve pain and accelerate the self¬≠-healing process. 


A TENS unit is a portable device that you can wear all day to help reduce pain. It uses electrical stimulation to close the pain gates of nerves in spastic muscles, stopping the transmission of pain from the injured tissues to your brain. 


Never use a TENS Unit:

  • across the eyes
  • on the anterior (front) region of the neck 
  • thru the chest 
  • internally
  • on open wounds
  • on infections
  • on tumors
  • on cancer
  • if you have epilepsy 
  • on areas of numbness or if you are pregnant (may induce labor).


  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Extremity pain
    • Shoulder pain
    • Elbow pain
    • Forearm pain
    • Hip pain
    • Knee pain
    • Ankle pain
    • Foot pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis
  • and other causes of pain

How to use a TENS unit:

TENS for neck pain

The device has four sticky pads attached to wires and electrodes that you place around the affected area (at least a pad width apart). The figure to the left illustrates placement of the pads for neck pain. 

TENS for low back pain

To the left here is pad placement for low back pain: at the lower posterior rib region and at the top of the buttocks. You plug the wires into the TENS unit and increase the intensity of the electrical pulse until it scrambles the sensation of pain.

Once the electrical stimulation is intense enough, you feel a massaging electrical current instead of your pain. This is a passive, palliative treatment, but there are no side effects (unlike pain medication), and not addictive (unlike opioids).

TENS units are available at drugstores and online for less than $100. After the initial cost of the unit, you just need to replace the batteries and the sticky pads (they lose their stick after multiple uses).  Keeping the pads in the refrigerator extends the life of the pads.

When is the TENS unit used best?

The Tens unit can be used as long as you want, but may not be worth the cost of the batteries. Most people use it for 30 minutes at a time when their pain is at their worst. Using the TENS unit while moving or exercises is more effective than using the TENS unit while sitting or laying down.  This may be because the TENS unit decreases the pain enough so the body can move, which facilitates the healing. Another good time to use a TENS unit is before going to bed, to decrease pain enough to allow you to go to bed. The unit has an auto-shut off to prevent you from wasting the batteries incase you fall asleep with it on.

TENS unit Settings:

TENS unit instructions

To understand how to use a TENS unit, click the play button below:

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Drummond Chiropractic, LLC
Your Downtown Low Back Pain Specialists
565 N Walnut St
Bloomington, IN 47404

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