There are plenty of reasons you might want to use a TENS unit on your abdominal muscles. For example, you might be experiencing cramping as a result of a digestive issue or simply pain in the abdominal muscles after an intense workout.
So, can you use a TENS unit on abs? When applied correctly, a TENS unit on your abs can help to reduce all sorts of pain in the abdominal region. This pain may be caused by abdominal surgery, a strained muscle, or even cramping from IBS or PMS. To maintain safety, women who are pregnant should not use a TENS unit on their abs.
Before you impulsively set up your TENS unit and attach the electrodes to your abs, you want to make sure that it’ll actually be useful. So, we’re going to be reviewing why you might use a TENS unit on your abdominal area and the possible conditions it can help to treat.
Can a TENS Unit Be Used On Muscle?
A TENS unit involves attaching electrodes to the skin in order to target local nerves and help to reduce the pain that you might be feeling. The good news is, a TENS unit can be quite effective when used directly on the muscles.
However, a TENS unit won’t help you to build muscle mass or endurance like so many people think. It’s most often used to help relieve the pain associated with muscle strains, inflammation of the muscles, or even overuse injuries.
Sources of Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain can be caused by plenty of different conditions. As we just went over, you might experience abdominal pain if you strained or overused your abdominal muscles during a particularly intense ab workout.
But, there are other causes of pelvic pain. Cramping and abdominal pain might occur as a result of digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Gastritis or even issues with the reproductive system, including cramping during menstruation.
TENS Unit Abdominal Area Uses
Since there are plenty of potential causes of abdominal and pelvic pain, there’s a larger possibility that a TENS unit might help to ease your pain. However, you shouldn’t expect a TENS unit to completely rid yourself of a health condition.
So, let’s review some of the conditions that have been scientifically proven to be treatable with a TENS unit.
Using a TENS unit directly on the muscles is great for reducing the pain associated with a muscle strain, but you can also use a TENS unit on your muscles to help boost muscle recovery. By applying the electrodes to specific muscle groups, your muscles can heal at a much quicker rate and allow you to get back into the gym much sooner than before.
Keep in mind that your muscles still need adequate time to recover between workouts. Give yourself at least 48 hours of recovery before returning to the gym to work out the same exact muscle group.
You can strain just about any muscle in your body, which is why you might experience an abdominal strain. This condition usually occurs when part of the abdominal muscle is torn or stretched as a result of sudden movements or twisting motions. Muscle strains can be quite debilitating and might limit your range of motion, cause swelling, and even result in spasms.
By using a TENS unit directly on the affected area, you can target the local nerves and help to reduce the pain and swelling. This can help to return some range of motion and allow you to go about your normal life with less pain.
TENS units are designed around providing pain relief, so it should come as no surprise that the TENS unit is successful when it comes to relieving abdominal and pelvic pain. There are actually quite a few studies that prove this idea.
Here’s a look at some of them.
In a 2017 study, scientists studied the effects that TENS units might have on those with abdominal and pelvic pain. Researchers ultimately determined that TENS units on their own were quite effective when it came to relieving this pain, removing the need for additional measures related to pain relief.
Another 2017 study looked at how using a TENS unit can help to relieve chronic pelvic pain in women. When used at a frequency of 75-100 Hz, a TENS unit could provide maximum pain relief. This was most effective when used five times a week for 30 minutes at a time.
In a 2019 study, researchers analyzed individuals that had recently undergone some sort of abdominal surgery. The study concluded that the use of a TENS unit on the abdominal region helped to relieve pain and even reduced the need for pain-relieving medicine.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal condition that usually involves diarrhea, constipation, stomach cramping, and gas. Though this condition is quite common, there are circumstances where the symptoms can be quite severe.
During a 2004 study, researchers recruited patients with IBS to see if a TENS unit had any impact on their conditions. After just two months, patients experienced less abdominal pain, fewer instances of stomach cramping, and even an improved mood.
Best Practices: TENS Unit on Abs
Since the abdominal region makes up such a large area of the torso, you have a little more freedom when it comes to the placement of the TENS unit’s electrodes. You can choose to target the entire abdominal area or a certain area of your choosing.
However, there are a few limitations that come along with using a TENS unit on your abs. So, let’s review everything you need to know about using your TENS unit directly on your abs.
TENS unit Placement on your Abs
If you want to target the entire ab region, you can use anywhere between four and eight electrodes to do so.
Focus on lining the electrodes up on both the right and left sides of your abdomen and keep a symmetrical pattern when possible.
However, there might be a specific area you’re trying to target in particular. If that’s the case, you can just use two electrodes a few inches apart surrounding the source of your abdominal pain.
Keep your sessions to a 30-minute maximum, and remember to start slow and work your way up in terms of intensity. You want to give yourself some time to become adjusted to the pulse length and the frequency that you’re using.
As effective as the TENS unit is when used on the abs, this should be avoided if you’re pregnant. There’s a possibility that the pulsations of the TENS unit can possibly induce your labor or even cause uterine contractions.
If you’re experiencing abdominal pain and you’re pregnant, you should consult your doctor to determine the best treatment method. The last thing you want to do is turn to your TENS unit and accidentally impact your pregnancy.
A TENS unit can be used on just about every region of the body, including your abs. This can be extremely useful when you’re looking to improve muscle recovery, reduce pain and cramping, and relieve muscle strains.
The best part is: There are plenty of ways that you can use your TENS unit on your abs. You can target specific areas where pain might be coming from or even just target your abdominal muscles as a whole.
Either way, there’s tons of research and studies out there that prove the effectiveness of the TENS unit on the abs.
- Healthline: Abdominal Strain
- NIH: Non-invasive stimulation techniques to relieve abdominal/pelvic pain: Is more always better?
- NIH: The effects of two different electrical stimulation methods on the pain intensity of the patients who had undergone abdominal surgery with a midline incision: Randomized controlled clinical trial.
- Medical News Today: What is a TENS unit and does it work?
- NIH: Rectal hypersensitivity reduced by acupoint TENS in patients with diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: a pilot study.
- Mayo Clinic: Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- NIH: Efficacy of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain
- Oxford Health: TENS Machine in Pregnancy