Some time ago my chiropractor suggested I purchase a TENS unit to help with tight muscles in the upper leg area. For those of you unfamiliar with a TENS unit it is a portable electronic stimulator unit. It stimulates nerves and muscles electronically. (The acronym TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) Why did he suggest it? Because it would be impractical for me to run back and forth to his office 3 times a day to get 30-minute sessions of electronic stimulation to alleviate the muscle tightness I was undergoing.
The unit costs about $30 and consists of a battery operated (9 volt) controlling unit that’s about the size of a deck of cards, two connective wires and 4 pads. The controlling unit has a clip so you can clip it onto your pant waist, belt, or even stick it in your pocket. The pads are sticky and adhere to the skin where ever you need to place them. Once the pads are properly placed on the skin, connect one end of the wires to the pads and the other end to the controlling unit. Select the modulation, current strength, duration and turn it on.
Be careful when turning it on. The on/off switch also controls the intensity. The intensity ranges from 1 to 8. Turning it on with too much vigor is a mistake that you’ll only make once. The little unit packs a wallop. I’ve never gone above an intensity of 2.5. Once I accidentally turned it on too fast and my leg almost kicked me in the face. At my age that’s no easy task.
At the end of most of my chiropractic sessions, I’d sit with the electronic stim unit for about 20 minutes or so. I trust my chiropractor, but I just didn’t understand the benefit of the stim. It wasn’t until I owned the TENS unit that I realized just how much of a life-saver it is.
Proper TENS Unit Instructions
My chiropractor gave detailed instructions as to where I should place the pads for best results with my particular muscle tightness. He prescribed 30 minute sessions three times a day until the symptoms resolved. After the acute symptoms dissipated I could then use the TENS unit on an as-needed basis. And that’s just what I did. What I didn’t realize, however, was just how handy this device could be. I’m considering getting a second device since my husband uses it more than I do.
After a day of digging in the yard, I felt a little tightness in my upper back. Instead of waiting for it to become full-blown back pain, my husband strategically placed the TENS unit pads on my back and allowed it to do its magic. I can’t tell you how many times it saved me from potential back episodes. I also use it when sciatica gives hints that she wants to flare up. I’ve been keeping her at bay without a full-fledged episode in years (I can’t attribute my lack of episodes entirely to the TENS unit, but it has been added to my anti-sciatica arsenal).
Putting the Pads in the Right Place
Not wanting to cause harm to myself or my husband, I did some research to find where and how to place the pads for various aches, pains and muscle tightness. You have to love the internet. Back in the old days it would have taken days of researching and pestering my chiropractor to find what I was looking for. Now a days, all I had to do was ask Google the question and lo and behold, I found a printable .pdf “An Easy Guide to TENS Pain Relief” . I printed a copy and placed it in the same drawer that I keep the TENS unit.
When our son came to visit with tight shoulder muscles, we were able to alleviate his discomfort with two sessions on the TENS unit. What a lovely little device.
If you’re subject to muscle pain and/or tightness (or if you’re…ahem…mature like I am), I would suggest looking into purchasing a TENS unit. The unit my chiropractor prescribed was the TENS 7000 (yes, that’s an Amazon affiliate link). Between the TENS unit and the inversion table (that’s the subject of another post), I barely see my chiropractor anymore.
UPDATE 10/25/17: If you end up using all of the pads for your TENS unit, you can always get spares from Amazon. I’ve purchased replacement pads twice from Amazon and the brand that lasted the longest because of its stickiness was FITOP 44 Pcs. In the past I purchased the pads from Syrtenty, but they just weren’t as sticky ad FITOP.