Tens for muscle

Medically Reviewed By : Dr Sravya, MBBS, MS 

What Is Tens?

Muscle pain is one of the most common types of pain experienced by us. It can be caused due to various reasons such as injuries, diseases, overuse of muscles, stress, etc. Muscle pain can be acute or chronic. The pain can be felt as a continuous, deep pain or in short, random bursts. Muscle pain can be generalised, i.e., all over the body, or localised, i.e., in specific areas. Muscles also undergo other painful conditions like spasms or knots. If certain muscles remain unused for a prolonged duration, they may waste away, causing muscle atrophy.

A method, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS for muscle pain relief is commonly used . In this method, a mild electric current is used to stimulate the nerves in order to provide relief from the pain.

TENS for muscle

How It Works

There are two theories as to how the TENS works for muscle pain relief –

The Tens Unit

TENS for muscle pain relief is administered with the help of a TENS unit, which is available over the counter in medical stores. The unit is a small battery-powered device with patches and wires. A TENS unit consists of –

1. How to use the TENS for muscle pain relief –

TENS for muscle pain relief is a commonly used device. So, it can be bought and used without a prescription, but it is always advisable to use it after consulting a doctor or physical therapist. The steps to use the unit are –

2. Electrode Placement

When using TENS for muscle pain relief, it is important to place the electrodes correctly for the treatment to be safe and effective. The electrodes must be placed on skin that is clean, dry, and easily accessible. The skin must be free of any oils, lotions, or creams. It is recommended to wash the area and wipe it dry before placing the electrodes.

The electrodes should not be placed –

3. Controls

The controls provided on the TENS unit can be used to adjust the settings as per patient requirements. These settings must be determined by a doctor or a physiotherapist. The intensity, frequency, duration, and type of currents can be altered.

No. of cycles
Used for
High-frequency (HF)
Acute pain
Chronic pain

Tens Techniques

Three different TENS techniques for muscle pain relief are used to administer the treatment according to the type of pain. They are –

1. Conventional TENS –

2. Acupuncture-like (AL) TENS –

3. Intense TENS –


TENS has been widely used for the relief of acute as well as chronic pain. It is commonly used to relieve pain in conditions such as –


It is not recommended to use TENS therapy in certain conditions, such as –

Adverse Effects

Although it is rare to experience severe adverse effects of TENS therapy for muscle pain relief, some side effects may be seen, such as –


There are several benefits of TENS therapy that make it a widely used method for muscle pain management, such as –


Although TENS is a widely accepted and popular pain relief method, it has some limitations, such as –


It is important to follow some precautionary measures to enable safe and effective usage of TENS. These include –

Frequently Asked Questions

TENS can be used throughout the day. For relief from chronic pain, it is most beneficial to use it when active.
TENS can be of some use to treat muscle atrophy. However, Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) is more helpful for muscle atrophy.
TENS uses electrical currents to stimulate nerve cells and is mainly used for relief from acute or chronic pain. On the other hand, EMS uses electrical currents to stimulate the muscles and is used for muscle strengthening and rehabilitation.
TENS on its own may be sufficient for pain management in most cases. However, its efficacy is improved when used in conjunction with medication and exercises.