What are the instructions on how to use a TENS unit?

The instructions on how to use a TENS unit are as follows:

  1. Turn the two control knobs to the off position before starting.
  2. Make sure that the 9v battery that powers the device is fully charged.
  3. Clean the area of the skin where the electrode pads will be attached with rubbing alcohol and let it dry.
  4. Place the electrodes on the skin. There are different types of electrodes; some may be self-adhering while others may require medical tape or an adhesive patch to be fixed in place. Moreover, some may be used in combination with a special gel that can improve both stickiness and conductivity. Ask your doctor how to apply the electrode pads.
  5. Hook the pin connectors on the end of the electrode wires to the electrodes and plug the electrode wires into the TENS machine.
  6. There are two control knobs on the unit; one controls the intensity of the signals (pulse rate) and the other controls their speed (pulse width). Rate usually ranges from 2 to 200 Hz and width from 40 to 300 microseconds. A high rate should be complemented with a low width – or the other way around – for comfort. Use these knobs to slowly adjust the device to the settings recommended by your doctor, which should be within a range where the current is felt but does not cause discomfort.  
  7. If possible, hook the device to your belt with a belt clip or put it in your pocket.
  8. Dual channel TENS units allow users to use only one pair of electrodes, or two pairs independently adjusted on different parts of the body.
  9. After treatment, turn the unit off and unplug the electrode wires from the device.
  10. If back to back sessions follow shortly one after the other, then the electrode pads may be left in place. Otherwise, remove the electrodes and wash the skin. If necessary, wash the gel off the electrodes with soap and water as opposed to alcohol, which may damage the electrode.
  11. Remove the battery to recharge it and replace it with a fully charged battery.

How to use a TENS unit treatment modes

The three basic modes in a TENS device are Conventional, Burst, and Modulation.









High frequency

Creates a gate that blocks pain at the nerve level so it does not reach the brain. Effective for nerve, muscle, and joint pain. Buzz sensation



Low frequency

Triggers the release of natural opioids known as endorphins that help relieve pain. Effective for swelling, muscle spasms, and sharp and intense pain. Massage sensation.


These two modes are intended to keep you from becoming accustomed to TENS therapy, which would detract from the device’s pain-relieving properties.



TENS units include a timer that can be set for continuous stimulation (Conventional-high frequency) or between 30 to 60 minutes (Conventional-low frequency; burst and modulation), or as directed by your doctor.