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TENS Unit Placement for Rotator Cuff Pain

  • July 8, 2022

Can you place a TENS unit electrode pad on your rotator cuff? The answer is a definite YES. TENS therapy is a safe pain management alternative to relieve and reduce pain associated with an injured or recently operated on shoulder. If you just had rotator cuff surgery or will in the immediate future then continue reading to find out how you can reduce the need to take medications in order to deal with your shoulder pain.

TENS Unit Placement for Rotator Cuff Pain

TENS unit for rotator cuff pain

The placement of the TENS pad on the rotator cuff is pretty straightforward but important. You basically want to surround the part where your upper arm meets the shoulder socket. 

If your TENS unit only has 1 channel (2 pads) place them as pictured here. 

Pay close attention to where the pain is worst and place the pads directly on the source.

TENS unit for rotator cuff pain

For TENS units that have 2 channels (4 pads) you can place 2 pads above the shoulder joint and 2 pads below it as seen here: 

When placing the electrode pads always try and leave space between each pad of about one inch.

Note:This placement of the TENS unit pads can also be used for shoulder bursitis or for shoulder impingement.

TENS Unit Settings for Rotator Cuff Pain

If you have not used a TENS unit before it is always best to start out at the lowest setting and adjust accordingly as you get used to it.

To learn how high you should set your TENS unit click here

If your muscles start to contract or you feel any discomfort then lower the setting.  Select an intensity level where you should feel a buzzing or tingling sensation.

Most TENS units have various modes to choose from. 

Again this is where some experimenting will be needed to find the one that suits you.

Best TENS Unit For Rotator Cuff Pain

iReliev tens ems

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 going for it. It is well under $80 and 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 FREE shipping and delivery in less than 5 days.

Get yours today on the iReliev website by clicking here

Does a TENS Unit Work After a Shoulder Surgery?

The evidence suggests that YES. A TENS unit can help alleviate pain after a shoulder surgery.   I found this article from U.S. National Library of Medicine.

They conducted a review of patients who were treated with a TENS unit after their surgery.  Here are the findings from their research:

“We were able to show in this study that TENS applied postoperatively after shoulder surgery clearly reduced analgesic consumption in the first 72 hours.

 Furthermore there was a significant difference in the pain scores using the “Hamburg Pain Adjective List” in favour of the verum group. TENS applied postoperatively is a effective, simple modality with few side-effects.”

Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11810350

Using TENS unit for shoulder pain is proven to reduce and lessen the pain especially after a shoulder surgery.  Patients that had TENS therapy used less pain medication after their surgery

How Long Can You Use a TENS Unit?

Generally you can use a TENS unit as many times during the day as you need to.  Usually the duration is 30-45 minutes but can be used for up to 2 hours safely. If you ever feel any pain during use turn off the TENS unit.

Helpful tips when using a TENS unit

  • Always make sure the areas of the skin are clean and free from any cuts
  • When placing the electrode pads on the skin pay close attention where the pain is coming from. Typically you want to surround the pain point with the pads.
  • You don’t need to shave any extra hair but trimming some excess hair will make it easier for the pads to adhere to the skin
  • When taking the pads off, pull towards you from the center.
  • If you use a TENS frequently you may need to put lotion or moisturizer as the pads can be rough on the skin.
  • If you notice that the TENS unit is decreasing in power it is probably time to replace the batteries (if applicable).

TENS unit electrode pads should NEVER be placed:

  • On your eyes or brain
  • The front part of your neck (carotid artery)
  • Over a cardiac pacemaker
  • Open wounds or cuts in skin
  • Over a tumor
  • Directly over the spinal column (either side of the spinal column is safe)

Where else can a TENS unit pad be placed safely and effectively? 

Check out my resource guide that is all about TENS Placement.

Thank you for reading,