How To Use a TENS Unit For a Pinched Nerve in the Neck

TENS Unit For a Pinched Nerve in the NeckMillions of people worldwide suffer from neck pain, this is also referred to as cervical pain.  It can be caused by a variety of things, from as simple as sleeping in the wrong position, to bad posture while working at the office.

It can also be caused by injury and damage brought on by a vehicle accident such as whiplash.  Many people who suffer from neck pain seek alternative treatments for pain relief, especially when pain is chronic.  Some alternatives work, and some do not.

Neck pain is one of the largest causes of time off work, after lower back pain. Many people are turning to using Tens Units to treat their neck pain with great results.

Neck pain from musculature disorders tends to be worse in the morning and evening, with noticeable improvement during the day. This pain often radiates to the shoulder, between the shoulder blades and up the neck causing prolonged head-aches.

Can A Tens Unit Help With Neck Pain?

Many people query whether you can use a TENS unit to treat neck pain instead of conventional painkillers?

The answer is simply, yes!  a TENS unit can be used to relieve neck pain. You will need to take a few precautions like being careful not to place the electrodes close to your head or on the front or the sides of the neck.

TENS units should never be used near the head area since they send electrical impulses to the body.

If you are looking to purchase a Tens unit I highly recommend you check out the iReliev Tens Unit.

How to use a Tens Unit For Neck Pain

Using a tens unit to treat this pain is very easy, Make sure you read the following advise.

To treat neck pain with TENS place two electrodes on the lower backside of the neck preferably on each side of the painful area.  Place two more electrodes above or beside the shoulder blades on either side of your spine.

Move the electrodes as required, maybe a little farther down the back if your neck pain occurs lower down the neck or spine.  Adjust the settings to find the right amount of pain relief.   Alter the pulse rate and width or length until you find the right amount of relief.

TENS Electrode placement for Neck Pain Treatment

The correct placement of electrodes is a vital element for treating any pain.  So, it’s no different with neck or cervical pain.  However, you do have to be careful about where you place the electrodes when treating your neck.

Avoid putting them anywhere near your head or throat.  Always remember never place them on the front of the neck or sides of the neck.  In general, when using a TENS unit, it is a good idea to position each set of electrodes above and below the site of the pain.

For the TENS to be effective in blocking the pain pathways that send signals to the brain, you will want to place the 1st set of pads at the base of the neck.

In this example we are using 4 pads, 2 on the base of the neck and the other 2 just above it.  You will notice that the wires are colour coded.

These are called lead wires and their placement is important.  What are lead wires?  Lead wires are used to connect the main TENS unit to the electrodes.  They are typically black with a black and red tip.  The red and black colour on the wire tip indicate the negative and positive side of the wire.

Tens unit therapy for torticollis or wry neck.

Wry neck is a twisted and also possibly tilted neck that can be very painful.  Essentially it is where the top of the head generally tilts to one side while the chin is tilted to the other side.  The 2 TENS electrodes are placed on either side of the spinal cord near the neck.  The other 2 electrodes are placed on both shoulders.

TENS unit for cervical radiculopathy

Despite the somewhat strange name, a radiculopathy can be quite painful. This condition is commonly referred to as a pinched nerve, with pain and weakness or numbness spreading down the arm.  The term radiculopathy comes from radix meaning root, with the nerve root being the most common site of nerve pinching.

What Causes a Cervical Radiculopathy?  A radiculopathy generally occurs when irritation of the nerve root is manifest at the point where it exits the spinal column.  This irritation can be due to a number of reasons including:

  • physical compression of the nerve from a bulging disc or bony growth, referred to as an osteophyte at the edge of the vertebra.
  • chemical irritation from swelling around the nerve root

What are the Symptoms of a Cervical Radiculopathy?

Pain is the most common symptom, with the worst pain often being felt further away down the arm.

The picture here shows common pain referral patterns for compression of nerves at different levels of the cervical spine.

Compression of the nerve may also lead to impaired nerve function, meaning that you may have areas of reduced sensation in the arm, or reduced power in muscles supplied by the compressed nerve.

TENS unit neck spasm

TENS therapy is becoming an increasingly popular drug free method to reduce your everyday aches and pains of daily life.  If you are experiencing muscle spasms while using a TENS unit you are also missing out on the benefits it can provide.

So, you have the TENS electrode pads placed on your shoulder blade, calf or lower back and notice that it is causing the muscles to spasm.

This is a painful, irritating problem to have, especially since it defeats the whole purpose of using the device.  The TENS unit is supposed to provide pain relief not cause it!  Question.

Do you have the right kind of TENS unit?

There are 2 types of devices, make sure you are using the correct type for your pain management:

  • TENS unit– Stands for “Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. TENS works by blocking the pain signals from traveling to the brain through low voltage pulses to the skin.  As a result, it produces endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemical.
  • EMS unit– Stands for “Electrical Muscle Stimulation”. Helps activate the muscles to assist in the increase of strength and endurance, and to speed up recovery.

The decision is yours