TMJ is a serious issue that causes a lot of pain. However, treatments for it are still inadequate, with the exception of TENS units. They reduce pain and relax TMJ patients. But, which one to get?
Here are some of the best TENS units for TMJ:
- TENS 7000
- iReliev Wireless TENS
- TechCare Plus 24 TENS
- Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit
- HealthmateForever TENS Unit
- PowerDot 2.0 Duo Smart TENS
- iReliev Premium TENS
If you want to know more about why these specific units would be good for you, as well as what TENS can do for you in terms of pain relief, read on.
Can You Use a TENS Unit for TMJ?
TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder is a health issue that affects a lot of people, even though it isn’t commonly known. In layman’s terms, this disorder causes the pain in the joint, which connects the temporal bones and the jaw. It’s the area just in front of the ears.
This condition is anything but comfortable, and it can seriously affect a person’s quality of life. There are many treatments for TMJ like moist heat or ice, softer food, an OTC analgesic, etc.
But, can you use a TENS for this disorder?
Fortunately, yes. People can freely use a TENS unit in that area since it’s not in one of the regions where it could cause more issues than benefits. It can help people with TMJ feel relief and help them relax.
What Are the Causes of TMJ?
Science has not yet determined how and why TMJ happens. However, some well-known habits could cause it. For example:
- Teeth clenching or teeth grinding
- Injury to this area
So, anyone can get TMJ if they let stress get the best of them. In that case, it’s best if you know what can help.
What Are the Symptoms of TMJ?
TMJ is a problem that affects the jaw area, and it can have many symptoms. Some of the main ones are:
- Soreness in the joint between the jaw and temporal bones
- A clicking sound or stiffness which can prevent full movements
- Pain in the face, especially the muscles of the face
- Difficulties with opening the jaw properly
- Jaw stiffening or jamming when closing or opening the mouth
As you would assume, all of these symptoms make it very hard for people to perform basic functions of everyday life. For example, they may find difficulties when speaking, sleeping, eating, drinking, or even smiling.
TMJ issues tend to resolve on their own after a while, but it can also turn into a chronic condition that requires treatment.
How Can TENS Ease Pain From TMJ?
To understand how TENS can help TMJ patients, you first have to understand how it works.
TENS is a device that sends electric impulses through your skin and to your pain nerves, blocking them from getting to the brain. It doesn’t propose to be a cure-all for TMJ, but it’s good at what it actually does — it provides pain relief in a seamless, non-addictive, non-invasive manner.
It’s also portable, so you’ll always have it on hand when you do need it. While it can’t heal you completely, it can allow you to get some much-needed rest from constant pain. Its effect is immediate, and you might even feel the benefits for some time after.
There are two theories as to how TENS works. One is the Gate Pain Control Theory, which proposes that TENS stimulates the signals of touch, which are larger than the signals of pain. The same theory states that the brain has a gate mechanism, and if the touch signals block the entrance, you won’t feel the pain.
Another theory states that TENS promotes the natural production of endorphins and other hormones and chemicals in the body, which acts as natural pain-killers. This reduces some of your pain, as well.
TENS feels largely pleasant, especially if used properly. You’ll get a tingling sensation, and you can adjust the frequency if you start to feel any additional pain. Another benefit of TENS is that you can use it at home, without supervision.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can use it as you please. Each unit comes with a set of instructions you should follow if you want to get the most benefits. For one, you have to place the adhesive pads properly. These are located at the end of each electrode, and you’ll need to place each pad on the area of pain — your temporomandibular joints.
Another possible placement would be on the neck, just below your jaw, but you shouldn’t do this without supervision since one of two areas where you shouldn’t place electrodes is the front part of the neck. The other one is the eyes. So, communicate with a health professional that can monitor this; otherwise, TENS could cause more pain or spasms.
You can use TENS in combination with other changes and treatments. There are some dental solutions that you could try, exercises to make your range of motion bigger, and of course, changing some important lifestyle elements. This can make the pain lower and make your life easier.
For example, you can apply a moist heat pack before using a TENS unit or use it after to prolong its effects. Of course, make sure that the TENS unit doesn’t come in contact with water. A mouthpiece can help you reduce teeth grinding, which ultimately helps reduce the pain.
Furthermore, you can try to do some exercises for TMJ, most notably, placing your chin on your hand with your mouth open and then stopping the jaw from closing with your fingers. This resistance force will improve your jaw condition. You should repeat them, though, if you want them to work.
Research with TENS and TMJ is limited but promising with some studies showing that TENS has the ability to reduce TMJ pain. And especially so in the cases where your muscles are tense and clenching the nerves, and that is causing the TMJ pain — TENS is a massage of sorts, and it can help you relax your muscles and ease your pain.
How to Pick a TENS Unit
Finding a good TENS unit can be confusing because there’s a large number of brands selling them online and in stores. However, if you know what to look for, your experience will be a lot easier, and you’ll be less likely to make a mistake.
Here are some factors that you want to look at:
- How many channels does it have? Channels are the number of electrodes or adhesive pads available with that specific TENS unit, and the number of them tells you how many you can have turned on at once. The more it has, the more parts of your body it can cover. So far, there are options with one electrode, two and four, although there are those with eight.
- Is it wireless or not? While this may not be a big issue, you want your TENS to be comfortable. If wires would bother you, go for a wireless unit. It’s convenient, and it can be discreet, although they could be more expensive. Still, some people prefer the wired ones.
- How many preset settings does it have? While TENS units are easy to customize even without presets, you may want a unit that has modes you can start with. This makes it easier when you’re just getting started. If you want more of these presets, you may need to pay for a more expensive unit.
- How many intensity levels does it have? Most TENS units have intensities starting at 80mA and ending at 100 mA, although there are some variations. You want a wide range so you can switch the intensity and get the effect that you want.
- Does it have a timer? The timer is mostly about convenience, but it could be a big deal to you. Most people complain about them, though, because they shut the device off after a certain amount of time. However, it’s not recommended to use the device for more than 20 minutes on one spot anyway, so you might as well have the device notify you.
- How portable is it? One of the biggest benefits of a TENS device is that it’s portable. So, you want to get a device that you can carry around and not a bigger one that needs to stay at home all the time.
The Best TENS Units for TMJ
Now that you know more about TENS and TMJ, you can learn more about the best TENS units for TMJ.
1. TENS 7000
TENS 7000 is a dual-channel TENS unit that can treat two areas at the same time, which is perfect for TMJ. You can adjust plenty of elements, although not as much as with previous devices. However, some users claim this as an advantage and that the existing modes are quality enough to suit all sorts of needs.
You have the control of the amount of time you use this device, which is quite different from the other devices which limit your time. Of course, make sure that it’s no longer than half an hour on one spot, or you’ll suffer from some side effects like irritation.
The device is easy to use, and the simplicity makes it perfect for people less skilled with technology. It’s also small and easy to carry around, although it does have cords.
This is one of the best TENS units on the market, and it has garnered a lot of popularity over the years. It has pain relief capabilities, and some of these units even come with EMS options, although it may not work well for TMJ.
The wireless factor is one of the best things about it because you can take it anywhere and also not worry about a bunch of cords. Since the adhesive pads are going to be on your face, you can relax and talk, move or eat without worrying that the pads will fall off.
There are different TENS programs based on the strength of electrical impulses. You’ll choose the one that works for you. The device is quite simple and easy to use, so you won’t have any issues with that.
This is one of the best devices if you’re looking for something inexpensive and easy to use. It’s best suited for first-time users and those who just want to test the device out before committing to a bigger purchase. The features are still there, and you’ll get 24 modes, which is plenty to cover all intensities of TMJ.
The modes are also given memorable names, which will make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for. The modes are not similar, and they will provide different sensations. TMJ, like many other disorders, comes in many shapes and sizes, so your needs could be different than someone else’s. This is why having different options for TENS is important.
Another interesting thing about this device is that it can treat both sides of your jaw at the same time.
Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit is functional and versatile, and you’ll get plenty of benefits from it. There are around 20 modes, which will give you plenty of options for treatment. You can choose one that works for your pain level and TMJ. It’s also very cheap, so that’s another advantage.
With this TENS, you’ll also get a bunch of different pads in different sizes, which can help you further customize your experience with this device. Smaller pads, for example, are excellent for those hard-to-reach spots, and TMJ pain may have some of those, depending on individual cases.
It’s also compact, but without compromising on features. The battery is long-lasting, and you’ll get many hours of massage, with a possibility to recharge.
This device is unique because you can use up to eight pads with it, and this could be ideal for people whose TMJ comes from arthritis. The settings are plentiful, so you’ll be able to customize your experience. It’s a powerful device that will provide strong yet comfortable electrical impulses that will give you enough pain relief.
It’s also easy to control and use. The device might be a bit bigger than other options on this list, but it has enough power to make up for it. It also doesn’t compromise on available features. You can also purchase it at an affordable price.
The battery life is also good, although the batteries aren’t rechargeable.
Another iReliev device on this list, this one is great for pain relief. It also comes with an EMS feature, which can be useful if you want to relax as well, but its primary purpose is pain relief with TENS.
There are eight modes for TENS, and one of them has been modified to help those with arthritis. So, if your TMJ is caused by arthritis, you can use this mode not just on your jaw, but also on your other body parts. Naturally, you can also choose from many other options and enjoy some pain relief.
It’s not wireless, but it’s also less expensive than the previous iReliev, so you can get a good device at a reasonable price. You can charge it and use it anywhere you go discreetly.
This is a small, very portable device that can also do a lot for your pain. The electrodes are wireless, so you won’t have to deal with cords here either. A nifty feature here is that you have to use your phone as the controller of the electrodes, which is excellent if you want to customize the effects.
By using the app, you’ll be able to find the pain easier, determine the type of pain, measure your tolerance levels before, during, and after using a TENS unit, etc. Based on this, you’ll get a program that works best for you. The app is simple to use, and you’ll also get the latest features whenever they come out because the app will update.
This device is excellent for traveling, and it tends to feel like a massage on lower settings, so you may decide to use it for more than just TMJ. As a discreet device, it can be great for when you go out. However, it may not be as strong for severe pain.
As you can see, there are some excellent TENS devices for TMJ. In order to figure out which of them will suit you best, you should talk to your doctor to see what you need but also consider what you need the most. For example, do you want something more discreet or something that can cover more different spots?
TENS can be a good form of therapy for TMJ, so it’s definitely worth trying, especially if you are looking for a bit of pain relief. Hopefully, you’ll find a TENS for you.
- Amazon: TENS 7000
- Amazon: iReliev Wireless TENS
- Amazon: TechCare Plus 24 TENS
- Amazon: Auvon Dual Channel TENS Unit
- Amazon: HealthmateForever TENS Unit
- Amazon: iReliev Premium TENS
- Amazon: PowerDot 2.0 Duo Smart TENS
- NCBI: Using TENS for pain control: the state of the evidence
- NCBI: Comparison of the Effects of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation and Low-Level Laser Therapy on Drug-Resistant Temporomandibular Disorders
- NCBI: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation therapy: An adjuvant pain controlling modality in TMD patients — A clinical study
- NCBI: Management of myofascial pain by therapeutic ultrasound and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: A comparative study
- Wikipedia: Temporomandibular joint dysfunction
- Wikipedia: Gate control theory
- Harvard University: Unlocking the lockjaw: Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) dysfunction
- PubMed: TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders)
- PubMed: The Role of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation in the Management of Temporomandibular Joint Disorder
- University of Iowa: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS)