Shoulder pain can be a debilitating condition that can significantly impact your daily life. While there are many traditional pain management methods available, such as medication and physical therapy, some people prefer non-invasive alternatives. One such option is a TENS unit, a small device that delivers low-voltage electrical currents to the affected area. In this article, we’ll explore how TENS unit work for shoulder pain, the types of units available, how to use them, and important safety precautions to take.
How TENS Units Work for Shoulder Pain
TENS units work by delivering electrical impulses to the affected area, which can help to disrupt pain signals being sent to the brain.
This can reduce the sensation of pain and promote healing. When it comes to shoulder pain, TENS units can be particularly effective due to the high concentration of nerve endings in the shoulder area.
TENS units can be adjusted to different intensity levels, allowing you to customize the treatment to your specific needs.
The electrical impulses can also stimulate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, further reducing discomfort.
Read More: Do’s and Don’ts for Frozen Shoulder
Using a TENS unit is a non-invasive alternative to medication or surgery and is generally considered safe when used correctly.
However, it is important to note that TENS units are not suitable for everyone, including pregnant women, people with pacemakers, and those with certain medical conditions.
There are different ways to apply TENS therapy for shoulder pain, and it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
It is often recommended to start with a low intensity and gradually increase it until you feel comfortable. It is also important not to use a TENS unit for extended periods or at high-intensity levels.
Read More: What is Dry Needling for Frozen Shoulder
Types of TENS Units for Shoulder Pain
When it comes to choosing a TENS unit for shoulder pain, there are several types available on the market. Here are the most common types:
- Wired TENS Units: These are the most traditional type of TENS unit and come with wires that connect to the electrodes placed on the skin. They are often more affordable than wireless units but can be less convenient to use due to the wires.
- Wireless TENS Units: These units don’t require any wires and are more discreet and easier to use. They are generally more expensive than wired units but offer more freedom of movement.
- Combination TENS/EMS Units: These units combine TENS therapy with Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS). EMS is designed to stimulate muscle contractions and can be helpful for shoulder pain caused by muscle tension or weakness.
- Wearable TENS Units: These units are designed to be worn on the body, like a patch, and can be discreetly worn under clothing. They are ideal for those who want to use TENS therapy throughout the day without any interruption.
- Rechargeable TENS Units: These units come with rechargeable batteries, eliminating the need to constantly replace batteries. They are environmentally friendly and can save money in the long run.
Read More: Do Tall People Have Bad Posture?
How to Use a TENS Unit for Shoulder Pain
Using a TENS unit for shoulder pain can be an effective way to manage discomfort and promote healing. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a TENS unit for shoulder pain:
- Clean the Skin: Before applying the TENS electrodes, make sure the skin in the shoulder area is clean and dry.
- Place the Electrodes: Apply the electrodes to the skin, following the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s essential to place them on or around the affected area, targeting the source of the pain.
- Adjust the Settings: Set the TENS unit to the appropriate intensity level, as directed by your healthcare provider or the manufacturer. Start with low intensity and gradually increase it until you feel comfortable.
- Turn on the Unit: Turn on the TENS unit and allow the electrical impulses to stimulate the affected area. You should feel a tingling or massaging sensation in the shoulder area.
- Use for the Recommended Time: Use the TENS unit for the recommended amount of time, as directed by your healthcare provider or the manufacturer. Typically, a treatment session lasts around 20-30 minutes, but this may vary depending on the individual.
- Turn off the Unit: Once the treatment session is over, turn off the TENS unit and remove the electrodes from the skin.
- Clean and Store the Unit: Clean the electrodes and store the TENS unit in a safe place, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Read More: Can a Chiropractor Help with Shoulder Pain?
Precautions and Safety Tips
While TENS therapy is generally considered safe when used correctly, there are some precautions and safety tips to keep in mind:
- Consult with a Healthcare Professional: It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new pain management regimen, including TENS therapy. They can advise you on whether TENS therapy is suitable for your condition and provide guidance on how to use it safely.
- Do Not Use on Certain Areas: Do not use the TENS unit on areas of the skin with open wounds, rashes, or burns. Additionally, avoid using it on the eyes, head, or chest.
- Do Not Use While Sleeping or Driving: Do not use the TENS unit while sleeping or driving, as it can be dangerous and cause injury.
- Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when using the TENS unit. Using it incorrectly or at too high of an intensity level can cause adverse effects such as skin irritation, muscle twitching, or even electrical burns.
- Use Caution During Pregnancy: TENS therapy is generally safe during pregnancy, but it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional first. The electrodes should be placed away from the uterus and not used during the first trimester.
- Avoid if Pacemaker is Present: If you have a pacemaker or other implanted electronic device, do not use TENS therapy without consulting with a healthcare professional first.
- Do Not Share the TENS Unit: Do not share your TENS unit with others, as it can increase the risk of infection or adverse effects.
In conclusion, TENS therapy can be an effective and safe way to manage shoulder pain. By using electrical impulses to stimulate the affected area, TENS therapy can help reduce pain, increase blood flow, and promote healing. However, it’s essential to use the TENS unit safely and correctly, and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new pain management regimen.
By following the steps outlined in this article, you can effectively use a TENS unit for shoulder pain and achieve the best results. Remember to start with a low-intensity level and gradually increase it until you feel comfortable, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and safety.
Can TENS therapy be used for all types of shoulder pain?
TENS therapy may not be suitable for all types of shoulder pain. It’s best to consult with a healthcare professional first to determine if it’s a suitable treatment option for your condition.
How often can I use a TENS unit for shoulder pain?
The frequency of TENS therapy will vary depending on the individual and the severity of the pain. It’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance on how often to use the TENS unit.
Can I use a TENS unit with other pain management methods?
Yes, TENS therapy can be used in conjunction with other pain management methods, such as medication or physical therapy. Always consult with a healthcare professional before combining different treatment options.
Can I adjust the intensity level of the TENS unit during a treatment session?
Yes, you can adjust the intensity level of the TENS unit during a treatment session, but it’s essential to do so gradually and carefully.
How long does it take to see results from TENS therapy for shoulder pain?
The time it takes to see results from TENS therapy will vary depending on the individual and the severity of the pain. Some people may experience immediate relief, while others may need several sessions before noticing an improvement.
Are there any potential side effects of TENS therapy for shoulder pain?
While TENS therapy is generally considered safe, there is a risk of skin irritation
- Albornoz-Cabello, M., Fernández-Carnero, J., Palacios-Ceña, D., Barbero, M., & Arias-Buría, J. L. (2020). Effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation on pain, disability and quality of life in patients with chronic shoulder pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 101(2), 365-375.
- Enriquez, R. F., Harwood, M. I., & Tuckett, R. P. (2014). Use of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for the treatment of shoulder pain in spinal cord injury patients: a systematic review. Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, 37(3), 261-269.
- Gam, A. N., Warming, S., Larsen, L. H., Jensen, B., & Høydalsmo, O. (1998). Treatment of chronic shoulder pain with pulsing electromagnetic fields. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, 27(5), 342-346.
- Johnson, M. I., Tabasam, G., & Anwar, M. (2019). Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for the management of shoulder pain: a systematic review of the literature. Musculoskeletal Care, 17(1), 41-55.