Neck and Shoulders

How to Use a TENS Unit for Neck Pain

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Neck pain can be very difficult to deal with. Yoga, massage, and posture correction can help, as can various medicines. But many medications can have severe negative side effects, including addiction. An interesting alternative pain management technique is the use of a TENS unit.

TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and is an effective non-invasive procedure device is designed to help relieve various types of pain in the body by using electric signals.

TENS units are great for pain on various points on the body, including the back, shoulders, and neck. In this article, we’ll look at How to Use a TENS Unit For Neck Pain. To find out more about this device and how it can be used to stop neck pain, you’ll want to keep reading.

What Causes Neck Pain?

Neck pain is caused by a variety of different things. Some of the most common are neck strain, poor posture, and pinched nerves. Excess phone use is certainly a concern, and if you have neck pain, changing how you hold your phone is an important step.

However, neck pain can also be due to a medical condition like degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis.

Problems That Neck Pain Can Bring

Those who suffer from neck pain not only have to deal with significant discomfort but many other symptoms as well. These include:

  • Depression
  • Trouble walking and standing up
  • A limited range of motion
  • Severe muscle pain and weakness
  • Headaches
  • The inability to move your head

With these issues comes difficulty focusing, frustration, headaches, tension, and a whole host of other maladies, all stemming from neck pain. Getting relief from neck pain can bring a host of benefits to the mind and body.

What is a TENS Unit?

Belifu TENS and EMS Unit

A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) Unit is a device that sends electric currents into your nerves. By doing so, it helps to calm any pain in your nervous system by sending signals to the pain receptors in your brain and spinal cord. The one shown above is made by Belifu.

See our article here on the Best TENS Units to find the right unit for your needs and budget.

The Benefits of Using a TENS Unit

Auvon TENS Unit Treatment Locations

There are many benefits that come with using a TENS Unit. Below are a few it offers.

1. It’s a Natural Option

Unlike other neck pain relief methods that often require you to take numerous pills, a TENS Unit is a natural pain-relief option. In fact, studies have shown that a TENS Unit can even help reduce chronic neck pain.

2. It Reduces Inflammation

Another benefit of a TENS Unit is that it reduces inflammation. This device will work alongside your nervous system to significantly decrease swelling. In the end, it can stop the inflammation that causes your neck pain.

3. It Increases Endorphins

Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relief. A TENS Unit works to encourage your body to release more of them when you’re in pain to help not only reduce your neck pain symptoms, but make you feel better overall.

4. It Can Stop Headaches and Migraines

Neck pain can sometimes be so excruciating that it causes headaches and migraines. A TENS device is designed to calm tingling and irritated nerves that cause this problem. This can be very helpful at preventing these horrible yet common symptoms from developing.

Here’s a great video from the University of Iowa Health Care showcasing the power of TENS Units.

How to Use a TENS Unit For Neck Pain

Healthmate TENS Unit for Neck Pain

A TENS Unit is very easy to use for neck pain. Below are some steps to keep in mind to ensure it works well for your needs.

Adjust the Settings On the Unit

Once you place the electrodes on your body, it’s time to adjust the unit’s settings. The device has buttons built into the front of it that you can use to alter things such as the intensity of the current and the pulse rate.

The image above, of the pads from Healthmate’s TENS unit, is an excellent example of positioning for neck pain.

Where to Place TENS Unit for Neck Pain

To treat neck pain, you need to place two pads near your spine and two pads on your shoulder.

1. Place Two TENS Unit Electrodes Near Your Spine

The first step is to place two of the device’s electrodes near your spine. You want to make sure to not place them on the bones in your neck or spine as it could cause damage to the area. To properly secure them you should place them toward your lower neck and on one side of your spine. To ensure that the electric currents reach the painful spot it’s ideal to place the electrodes close to where the problem is.

However, keep in mind that the higher up the neck the pads are placed, the more intense the currents will be. If you want to have a mild session, it’s ideal to place them lower on your neck and upper spine.

2. Place Two TENS Unit Electrodes On Your Shoulders

After you secure the electrodes near your spine you’ll want to then place two more electrodes toward the top of your shoulders. It is important to place the electrodes on the shoulders because they contain muscles that connect to your neck. You should place the pads on shoulder areas that have a thick amount of skin to prevent the electric currents from vibrating into your bones.

Tips for Placing the Electrodes on Your Body for Neck Pain

A TENS Unit is easy to use, but for best results it’s important that you properly place the electrodes on your body. Here are some crucial tips to keep in mind.

Use More Than One

Some might be a little hesitant to use more than one electrode pad on their body, but it’s important that you do. By doing so, it ensures that the electric currents reach deep into your body’s nerves to provide more relief.

Try Smaller Pads

TENS Unit pads come in various sizes. For the neck, smaller ones are ideal as they fit easily on either side of your spine.

Don’t Let Them Touch

You should make sure that the pads aren’t touching each other. Otherwise, it can decrease their intensity. You should check to see if they are at least one-inch apart from each other before you turn the device on.

If the pads are losing their adhesion, see our article on how to make TENS unit pads sticky again.

Watch the Time

Typically TENS units should be used for 10-30 min per session. You may want to do multiple sessions per day, but you want to be careful to not ov.

This can lead to pain and discomfort due to too much electrical stimulation.

Does a TENS Unit Have Side Effects?

While a TENS Unit (and its sister technology, EMS) is very helpful to use it also has a few side effects you’ll need to keep in mind. These include skin irritation and muscle soreness.

You will also need to be careful not to keep the device running for too long on a certain section of your body as it could cause pain.

In addition to this, you need to be very careful where you place the electrodes near your neck. You should never place them on the front or sides of it as this could be dangerous.


A TENS Unit is a great device to use if you’re looking for a natural neck pain relief option. When using it on your neck, you’ll find that it not only combats any pain you might have, but works to improve your overall health as well. See our article on the Best TENS units to find the right one for your needs.