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Is Your TENS Unit Causing Muscle Spasms?




tens unit placement for herniated disc

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Just started using a TENS unit and noticed that it is causing muscle spasms?

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 your missing out the benefits it can provide.

Well, this is really an easy problem to diagnose and solve. Ok. So you have the TENS electrode pads placed on your thigh, calf or back and notice that it is causing the muscles to spasm.  A painful, irritating problem to have especially since it defeats the whole point of using this device. TENS units are supposed to provide pain relief not cause it.

There are 3 things that may be causing muscle spasms while using a TENS unit.

1. Do you have the right kind of TENS unit?

There are 2 types of devices:

  • 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 unitStands for “Electrical Muscle Stimulation”. Helps activate the muscles to assist in the increase of strength and endurance, and to speed up recovery.

2. Intensity level of your TENS unit

Check the setting on your device and make sure it is at a low enough level where it is not causing spasms. When you first use your TENS start it off on the lowest setting and then work your way to higher settings. The moment when you start to feel a strong twitch in your muscle this means that the intensity level is too high.  Simply lower the setting. Also experiment with different modes and programs that your TENS device has.

3. Where are you placing the TENS electrode pads?

Incorrect use of a TENS unit can cause muscle spasms and not knowing where to correctly place them can contribute to spasms along with having it set too high.

I have put together a TENS unit placement guide that will tell you exactly where to place the electrode pads.

Need to upgrade your TENS unit?

iReliev tens ems

There are plenty of TENS and EMS devices in the market and you can buy both OR You can get the best of both TENS and EMS by getting a single device that offers both.

This is the exact TENS unit that I use. It is perfect for alleviating many common types of pain. The iReliev is a great little device and has a lot of going for it. It has several programs to choose from and is small enough to fit in your pocket.

You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a quality TENS unit and iReliev gives you a ton of value for the price being paid. Best part is they are based in Dallas, Texas and have phenomenal customer service. This is important! You will definitely be able to find the right intensity level and solve your muscle spasm problem once and for all. Get yours today on  by clicking here.

Want to know where a TENS unit can be placed correctly and safely?  Check out my TENS placement guide for how to use one for-

Why should you trust me?
I have extensively used TENS units for neck, shoulder, back and knee issues and became familiar with TENS therapy through countless visits to my chiropractor and physical therapist’s office. I have spent many hours researching and reading how TENS therapy can alleviate pain.

I consider myself knowledgeable in the use of TENS units and have used them regularly to help manage pain over the years. Many of my recommendations are from firsthand experience/use and hopefully my information can be a benefit to you.

Final Thoughts….

In general when placing the TENS pads on the problem area you will want to surround the pain.  Also it is important that the electrode pads be 1-2 inches (at least) apart from one another.

Using the right device, proper placement and appropriate setting should put a stop to those pesky muscle spasm’s and you are able to enjoy the tremendous pain relieving benefits that TENS therapy offers.

Thank you for reading,

About the author

4 responses to “Is Your TENS Unit Causing Muscle Spasms?”

  1. Lauri Williams Avatar
    Lauri Williams

    I appreciate this. I got the EMS rather than TENS and I set too high causing spasms. Do you have any recommendations on how to recover from the spasms? Ur exactly right. I’ve defeated my purpose. Thank you

    1. Optimize Health 365 Avatar
      Optimize Health 365

      Hi Lauri,

      Try alternating ice and heat on area that is impacted. Ice will help reduce inflammation and heat may help improve blood flow. I like to use EMS for sore muscles as it provides a massaging effect that brings some relief. But start off on a low setting and don’t overdo it

      Hope this helps,
      Thanks you
      Optimize Health 365

  2. Todd C. Avatar
    Todd C.

    Hi John,
    I will be having surgery for a torn rotator cuff in a couple weeks and have ordered a tens unit to help manage the pain before and after surgery.
    Tens was used during therapy and was always set to where it caused my arm to twitch a lot. I was told that was the effect desired. After reading your article I see this was wrong.
    I will be putting your advice to good use as I am to stop all nsaids 1 week prior to surgery.
    Thank you for explaining the proper use of these units for those of us who need them in place of drugs.
    Any advice for post surgery use would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Again.
    Todd C.

  3. […] type of pain.  They work by sending small electrical currents through the skin. These currents cause the muscle to release chemicals that reduce inflammation and […]

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