How to Use a TENS Unit for Pain Relief?
Hey everybody it’s Doctor Jo, and today I’m going to show you how to use a TENS
unit for pain relief. so let’s get started.
So what does TENS stand for you might ask? it’s
transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. well what does that mean?
well basically transcutaneous means on the surface of the skin, and electrical
nerve stimulation is making the nerve stimulated through some kind of
stimulation being electric stimulation or sometimes this vibration things like
that, but what this is different from like an EMS unit or electrical muscle
stimulation is this gets those surface nerves right on the skin. so technically
when you’re using this for pain relief your muscles shouldn’t really be
contracting. now sometimes if you if you have just really thin skin or not a lot
of meat on your bones, those muscles will contract a little bit, but the goal of a
TENS unit is strictly for pain relief, it’s not to contract those muscles so
that’s what a little bit of the difference is. and what I really like
about a TENS unit for pain relief in general is if you don’t like taking the
pain medication or maybe you have allergies or bad reactions to pain
medication, this is a good alternative. when I’ve had both my surgeries shoulder
and hip, and all the other surgeries I’ve had, but mainly those, I maybe one or two
days afterwards, I’ll take some pain medication and then I’ll just use a TENS
unit and ice the rest of the time because it’s enough for me to take away
that pain, and for most people take that edge off just enough. so I think is a
great alternative especially if you just don’t do very well pain medication which
a lot of people don’t. so it has, with tens, a lot of different settings.
this unit particularly here, the folks at CUH sent me, and I really like this one
not only because it’s small and compact but it has 16 different modes. so that’s
really really cool and it’s got a lot of power to it as well, but again like I
mentioned before, it’s not supposed to contract the muscles this is a tens
unit where it kind of massages those muscles, it gets that current in there
just to calm things down. and basically what I tell my patients not in technical
terms, so what does the tens unit exactly do to make the pain go away? so this
current follows the same pain pathway back to your brain because the pain
really comes from our brain it’s not, you know, if my me is hurting the pain is not
really here it’s sending signals to my brain and my brain saying yes that hurts.
so it’s following that same pain pathway and kind of canceling it out through
vibration, so that’s that’s what it does. that’s the goal of it. it does in a sense
have a healing component to it because that that vibration that that nerve
impulse, the electrical impulse, excuse me that goes in there
kind of helps increase the circulation as well so if you’ve got some swelling
you’ve got some irritation, it will help with that, but its main goal is to
kind of cancel out that pain feeling. so you can do your stretches and exercises
to feel better. so again I’m going to show you real quick here the CUH brand
which is really cool. I mean look how big it is, it fits into my palm right there.
you can put it in your pocket. it’s got two separate channels which I like and
each channel which this is, the the part that I like best about it has two
electrodes on it, so it gives you the option of either just doing one channel
with two electrodes or two channels with four electrodes, and you can use them for
different purposes. my main rule of thumb is if you have a big surface like the
knee, you want to use the four electrodes. and if you have something smaller like
the elbow or maybe even if you’re just trying to get a specific area, then just
use the two electrodes or one channel. so it’s really important also people
sometimes don’t know this and sometimes it’s not in the instructions, and in
certain units but so one channel here where it’s connected you can see they
need to cross each other. so if you’re using four electrodes, it should be like
this and the pain spot should be basically in the middle. so if I’ve got
this channel, I’m going to put one here and then I’m going to put one on the
opposite side down below, and then I’m going to put a make it a cross so the
other channel then goes here (with some dog hair on it) and then it crosses over
on the other side. and so what that does is it makes the currents go this way so
you’re getting it in that pain area. if you do the same channel here and here
then it’s just going to go this way and it’s going to go this way, and some
people might think that feels okay, but if the goal is to really get that spot,
you want it to go this way and this way. so the other big thing that people like
to ask is once you turn it on, it’s got those 16 modes, and they’re like well
which mode should I use, you know, there’s 16 of them. how do I know what’s best for
me? this is what I tell my patients. you’ll probably hear therapists tell you
completely different things. which ever one makes it feel better. whichever
one you like the best. I think everybody’s personal preference is going
to be something different, which is fine. you know they, some of them will have
settings that say this is for your knee, this is for your shoulder, this is for
your elbow, this particular one doesn’t do that, it has just some different kind
of massaging type sensations, and so in the end if it’s increasing the
circulation and if it’s following that same pain pathway to cancel it out,
to me I don’t think it really matters what setting you have. I think the
different settings to me are your comfort level, so some people like the
one that just goes up and down and up and down like that, and some people like
the one that kind of almost like somebody’s just kind of beating on you a
little bit to get that vibration or specific massages to do that. so it’s
really just what you think feels the best. so as you can see it’s got a lot of
great features so if you’re interested in purchasing the CUH you can click on
the link up here. so what I want to show you really quickly I’m gonna do what you
probably shouldn’t do, and I’m gonna take it up strong enough where it actually
will probably start making a muscle contract a little bit which is what you
don’t really want. now like a lot of times on the shoulder since it’s a
smaller area, and usually those muscles are a little bit more on the surface,
maybe you don’t have as much fat or adipose tissue on it, you might start
getting a little bit contractions, but you don’t really want that
to happen because that’s going to fatigue out that muscle and again the
purpose of the TENS is to make you feel better, they cancel out that pain so
let’s see if I can do this without my hair sticking up. just kidding.
so I’m just going to start going and so you can see here we’re, see how it jumped
like that? I really don’t want it that high it again might do a little bit in
some places, and sometimes you can just fix that by changing the placement of
the electrode a little bit. so here it was getting that VMO just a little bit
more, so I’m just going to move that that pad just a little bit back .and this is
on, that it’s not going to make a difference if you take them off and put
them on while it’s still on, I would just turn it down back down to its lowest
setting. but so now it’s not really doing that contraction that’s about it at the
same level now if I turn it up it will still, you can probably see a little bit
where it’s doing that and that’s just not something I think it’s really good
for your muscle, you know if you’re trying to get strengthening and make
that muscle contract that’s what you want, but for the tens unit you really
don’t want that, so again on this one it’s pretty cool because it has the
different settings and you know I would say when you get it just go through and
see how it feels. you know again some people like the certain ones better than
the others, and another thing that I really like about this unit is it comes
with some other electrodes as well so different sizes. so these smaller
electrodes are usually better for smaller surface area. so let’s say I’ve
got some lateral epicondylitis or something like that what I would
probably do is just use two electrodes or two placements, and use the smaller
pads just because that’s going to get a little bit more directly to the area and
it’s going to be, it’s just really going to hit that spot versus having those
electrodes you know big and clunky all over the place. so I think I got myself
all tied up. there we go. and so by having the smaller electrodes you can really
just get around the spot. so let’s say that
outside elbow tennis elbow a little bit is really sore, then I can take these and
just place you know one right here and then the other one right here. now with
this unit what I found is they’re they’re both on all the time, so if you
don’t want one of them on, then you want to probably go ahead and just unplug
that side, and then you probably wouldn’t have it plugged in anyways, but if you’re just
using to just plug in that one, and then again you can pick which mode is best
for you, and it might be different. so if you like one on the knee, you might like
a different one on a smaller area or something, so I could then just change it
to whatever I wanted to and for some of these, is for like headaches or
reflexology in the feet or in the ears and things like that, and so those are
not quite as intense and so you might want to start with those first and see
how they feel. so I think it gives you a really good variety of things to try and
so you can just do the one that works best for you, and what works best for you
might not work for somebody else, so the main things I would say is if you’re
gonna use it on your low back for low back pain which I think tens is great
for, I would use the four electrodes and just kind of make a nice surface area of
your back so you’re just getting that whole general low back or mid to upper
back. and so the further away might not be quite as strong, but you’re going to
get more of an area. if you’re using the shoulder it kind of depends on where the
pain is. some people if it’s like on the outside might just want to do two right
here but I like if your shoulder in general is hurting, do one back one front
kind of one up here at the neck, and then one a little bit lower on the arm so
then you kind of get that whole area as well. you can even do it on if you’ve got
shin splints, you can do your anterior tibialis, if you’ve got you know calf
strain, calf cramping, and things like that. you can use it on your calf,
hamstrings, quad, we talked a little bit. so you really can use it almost anywhere
that you have some muscle soreness. once you start getting into the front of the
neck, or you know where those those arteries are and stuff, you want to be
you want to be a little careful with those. you don’t want to go right there,
but as long as it’s those big muscle groups, those should be fine, but you
should always talk with your doctor or physical therapist first because there
are some what we call contraindications for using these, and a lot of times after
surgeries sometimes the TENS is usually fine, the neuromuscular is not always
fine. specially if you have a fracture or something, so again even if you’re using
the tens I would clear it with your doctor of whatever injury you have or if
you’re going to physical therapy you know check with them and take your unit
with you. I’ve had my patients say hey I bought this online it’s awesome but I
don’t know how to use it, and so then your therapist can use some of the
session just to show you how to use it, make sure you’re using it properly, make
sure you’re feeling good while you’re doing it, making sure that those
electrodes are in good placement to really get that pain relief that you
need. so there you have it that’s how you use a TENS unit for pain relief. and if
you’re interested in purchasing the CUH make sure to click on the link up here,
and don’t forget to subscribe by clicking down here. and remember, be safe
(don’t go too high), have fun, and I hope you feel better soon.
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Dr. Jacob Rispler / Dr. Dave Miles. Last update on 2021-01-18 / Disclaimer: as an Amazon Associate a Community Clinic Association team earns from qualifying purchases.