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How to Use a TENS Unit Easily at Home

how to use a tens unit

Believe it or not, modern medical TENS has actually been around for centuries. albeit in a much more fascinatingly cruder model.  Dating back to earlier than 2500BC Egyptians found a type of electric eel/fish.

They discovered that the shocks from the fish could offer relief from pain. That’s exactly the reason why you should learn how to use a TENS unit and enjoy its benefits.

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A Little Bit of History

A physician of that era documented the fact that when ‘standing’ on the electric fish you would experience pain relief.  There were Hieroglyphs found portraying this as a form of treatment.

Race forwards a few millennia and we now have the exact same concept on offer. Although, packaged and parceled in a different form.

Once you know how to use a tens unit, you might understand what’s the fascination about.

What’s a TENS Unit?

TENS is a form of electrotherapy that relieves acute and chronic pain. It is a drug-free substitute.

It’s also great because it can ease any side-effects caused by medications. TENS mechanism delivers electrical signals onto the body via electrodes.

These then direct a safe electrical current straight into the nerves. Thus, it blocks pain signals from going to the brain.

It can also be used as a stand-alone treatment to ease the pain.

Is TENS Unit Effect?

So far there is inconclusive evidence to confirm whether it’s effective. But, it seems to aid some people with varying degrees of success. 

It’s not a cure for medical conditions though. Moreover, it’s always best to seek a professional assessment.

TENS is not suitable for every type of pain condition and injury. TENS has also been modified and used as an aid for giving birth.

Small and efficient handheld portable machines have been of great help during labor. It’s somewhat due to the portability of this type of treatment.

Again, it works differently on each individual. That’s because it depends upon the type, scale, and persistence of pain.

tens unit for pain

Types of TENS Units and Cost

The prices for the TENS Unit starts at around $25. The kit will include the device itself plus sticky pads (also referred to as electrodes).

Also, wires, leads, batteries and/or charger (if it is a rechargeable model). There are a plethora of various types of make and model all of which differ in price. 

The units will range in price from the basic budget ‘over the counter’ models to the expensive ones.  After your initial outlay, you may find some small running costs extra electrodes or batteries.

Read More: How to Give a Full Body Massage to Relieve Pain

How to Use a TENS Unit

So now you know a little about the background and ethos behind TENS, let’s have a run through of how to use one. Follow the steps and you should be just fine.

Step 1

First, get yourself acquainted with the contents of your starter kit. You should find the device, the electrodes (which will attach to your skin), wires and leads (which will attach the electrodes to the device), batteries (if not a rechargeable model), gel (for aiding electrical charge to reach nerves).

Step 2

Test the battery pack to make sure it is fully charged. If it is a rechargeable model then connect the battery to its charger and charge fully.

Step 3

The simplicity of the unit should be apparent. There are 2 control knobs.

One denotes the electrical signal input from being strong to weak. The other designates the electrical signal to be fast or slow.

Ensure both control knobs are in the ‘off’ position before you start.

Step 4

Use a little rubbing alcohol to clean the skin where the electrodes will be placed and then allow your skin to dry. Layer a thin coat of gel to the bottom of each electrode.

This gel will aid the electrical signals to reach the nerves under your skin.

Step 5

Put the electrodes on your skin in your desired place (i.e. lower back for lower back pain – seek assistance if you cannot reach the area yourself). Use some medical tape or a large plaster to cover the electrode and keep it firmly in place.

Afterward, catch the pin connectors to the end of the electrode wires and attach to the electrodes. Now plug the electrode wires into the TENS unit.

Slowly turn each control knob to a setting that is correct for your requirements. You should feel a tingling sensation.

Step 6

Hook the TENS unit to your belt or place in a pocket. Allow significant time to deliver your treatment and then turn the controls to the ‘off’ position.

Afterward, unplug the electrodes from the unit.

Step 7

If you are going to have another treatment soon after, you can leave the electrodes on your skin in place in readiness for the follow-up session

If you have completed your treatment then remove the electrodes and wash your skin.

Step 8

Clean the electrodes with soap and water to remove any remnants of gel. Avoid using alcohol to clean the electrodes as this can damage their sensitive external layer.

Finally, Remove the battery from the unit.  If necessary, recharge it in readiness for another treatment.

Final Note

Move the electrodes slightly for each treatment to help prevent the skin from becoming red or sore.  Check your skin for redness or tenderness. (If you find you have an allergic skin reaction to the pads then look at trying latex-free pads).  

Avoid having the settings too high during treatment and try not to overuse TENS. Do not sleep or be near water while electrodes are on your skin and the TENS unit turned on!

Read More: How to Massage Your Own Foot


I hope it’s now pretty clear for you how to use a TENS unit. It’s not that hard if you’re careful and follow all the steps.

If you have any questions or find any part confusing, let me know in the comment section, I’ll do my best to answer all the questions!