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Use of TENS Unit on Neck for Pain Relief?

TENS Unit on Neck
Written by Sonia Naz

What is TENS Unit?

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation Unit (TENS) is a tool commonly used both in the home, as well as in wellness centers and other chiropractic offices to help relieve muscle pain. 

When attached to the skin, the device emits low-level electrical impulses that penetrate deeply into the muscles, helping to relieve pain.

Best TENS Unit with accessories

TENS 7000 2nd Edition Digital

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NURSAL Dual Channel Rechargeable

AUVON Rechargeable TENS Unit

NURSAL Dual Channel Rechargeable TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator, Professional Pain Relief TENS Machine with 8 Pads for Pain Management and Rehabilitation AUVON Rechargeable TENS Unit Muscle Stimulator, 3rd Gen16 Modes TENS Machine with Upgraded Self-Adhesive Reusable TENS Electrodes Pads (2"x2" 12pcs, 2"x4" 2pcs)
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Can you use a tens unit on your neck?

Yes, we can use TENS unit as a pain relief for neck also.

How TENS Unit Works?

Electric impulses

TENS units put between 80 and 90 megahertz (MHz) in each pulse. The unit produces the electrical impulses and directs them through the wires into the electrodes that are placed on the skin above the affected neck muscles.

The force of the pulse can be manipulated by manually changing the setting on the dial until the effects of the pulse can be felt.

Nerve impulses

When pain occurs in a muscle of the neck, electrical pain signals are sent from the surrounding nerves through the nervous system to the brain. The brain then interprets these signals as pain from the neck.

When a TENS unit is energized, the electrical impulses of the unit interrupt the pain impulses sent to the brain. As long as the signal of pain does not reach the brain, you will not feel pain in the neck.

Nerve fibers

A TENS unit works by specifically targeting the large nerve fibers of the body. The pain travels through the nerve fibers of smaller ones, but it is the large nerve fibers that can close the signals of the small nerve fibers in the spinal cord.

This is called the “pain door control theory” because large fibers when interrupted by an electrical pulse TENS act as a gateway that can cut off signals from small nerve fibers.

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How to use a tens unit for neck pain?

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS, is a method of nerve stimulation to reduce pain and stimulate muscle tension to tone. Various TENS units are available that provide different ranges of frequency-based therapy, pulse rate and amplitude ranges, according to doctors at Memorial Hospital in Towanda, Pennsylvania. TENS units are used by professional physiotherapists as well as home patients. The devices are small battery units that weigh only a few ounces.

Step 1

Clean the skin around the area where you plan to use electronic stimulation. Use a shot of alcohol or clean with an antibacterial soap. Dry the area completely before attaching the electrodes to avoid skin irritation.

Step 2

Insert the ends of the cords into the disposable pads that come with the device. Additional pads can be purchased for home use. Always use a clean swab for treatment.

Step 3

Peel off the adhesive backing on the pad and place the stamp on the area to be treated. Follow the advice of your doctor and only use the machine on the recommended body parts.

Step 4

Set the machine to the settings in which you were instructed to use. Many physical therapists will preselect the TENS units they offer to clients. Patients must maintain the parameters recommended by the therapist.

Step 5

Increase the intensity of the electrical input signal gradually so as not to shock the muscles. Again, you should have instructions as to the height of turning the device for each treatment.

Step 6

Use a TENS machine for 30 minutes to an hour to feel relief, or as long as prescribed by your therapist. Some patients find that they need a few hours with the attached unit for the best treatment.

Step 7

Remove the tampon after treatment and dispose of the filling. Moisturize the area with lotion to relieve skin irritation that may have occurred and to prevent redness.


  • Most patients who use a TENS machine receive instructions from a doctor or physiotherapist. Always follow these instructions when continuing treatment at home to avoid further complications.
  • If you feel your muscles start jerking or jumping, reduce the intensity of the unit until you stop spasms.


  • Make sure the adhesive pad is completely adhered to your skin to prevent intermittent electrical charges, which can cause skin irritation and reduce the effects of treatment.
  • If you continue to get skin irritations after using the TENS device, try another brand of tampons. Manufacturers use different types of adhesives, so look for one that does not irritate you.
  • Keep hairy spots shaved or trimmed to allow cleaner attachment of the pads.

Things you need

  • disposable pads
  • Moisturizing lotion

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Side Effects of TENS Unit for Neck Pain

Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Transcutaneous units use pads attached to a hand-held device that transmits electrical signals to relieve pain from arthritis, injury and other causes. Despite its effectiveness in relieving neck pain, TENS units pose a risk of certain side effects.

Common types of side effects

Skin irritation and redness at the site on your neck where you apply the tampons are common side effects of TENS use.


Rotating the exact spot on your neck where you place the electrodes and not reuse the same place twice in back-to-back treatments helps prevent some of the skin’s effects from the TENS unit.


If too much current is allowed to pass through the unit in the pads, you are likely to develop muscle contractions in the neck. When this happens, you must decrease the amount of power.


It is important not to place TENS unit pads on the veins that run from your neck to the throat or the brain, as this has the potential to block blood flow. If you have epilepsy, using a TENS unit on your neck to relieve this pain could cause a seizure.

General considerations

Because its effects on fetal development are not known, you should not use the TENS unit to treat any type of pain if you are pregnant. In addition, you should not use a device if you have a pacemaker.

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How long can you safely use TENS Unit?

No loss of efficiency

“There is no evidence that efficacy (treatments with TENS units) tails over time… People with osteoarthritis should be encouraged to experiment with intensities and duration of application if the desired relief of symptoms is not initially achieved, “according to” Osteoarthritis, “a clinical guideline British Royal College of Physicians published in 2008 for the National Health Service.

Medical supervision

Using a TENS unit may pose risks for patients who are using a pacemaker or other implants or – as battery-powered dispensing devices – or who have certain other conditions, depending on the guideline.

The risk depends on individual circumstances, so the guideline suggests that patients who enter these groups seek medical attention regarding the use of TENS units. In 2008, research is underway to determine if the use of TENS units poses a risk during the first trimester of pregnancy, according to the guideline.

Bottom Line

The consensus, according to the “Osteoarthritis” directive, is that there are no unwanted side effects accompanying the use of TENS units for extended periods of time, although some medical conditions may require patients to seek advice to their doctor before using a TENS unit.

Criteria for a TENS unit

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a device designed to relieve pain by applying a light electrical current. Criteria or standards for a TENS unit include basic sound operation and effective treatment delivery.

Basic operation

The basic operating criterion of a TENS unit involves the transmission of electric current from a power source through a series of wires connected to the electrode pads which are placed on the skin of the power source. A patient near the source of the pain, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).


Doctors also use treatment efficacy as a primary criterion for using a TENS unit, SpineUniverse notes. Typically, they use a TENS treatment trial to see if a significant pain relief on patients’ earnings.


TENS electrodes should not be placed on the heart, brain, throat or eyes, reports the ACS.

Prescription use

People who want to use a TENS unit must first get a prescription from their doctor, according to SpineUniverse.


Doctors can also use a TENS unit to deliver soft tissue steroid drugs, reports SpineUniverse. In this technique — called iontophoresis — the current of a TENS unit strengths topical steroids in the skin.

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Contraindications for a TENS machine

About the author

Sonia Naz

I'm a Review Content Writer since 2013. I provide research driven and unbiased buying guides to help you make smart decisions. I give authentic, trusted and unbiased reviews to help people for making better decisions.

1 Comment

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