Today I wanted to talk a little about the correct
placements for TENS electrodes. For
TENS pain management, there really are no "right or wrong"
locations for the placement of the two electrodes.
Everyone has their own individual experience of pain, so we
always recommend you try a number of options to discover the most
effective electrode placement for your needs. Also remember, over
time, your needs may change.
Later, I'll outline some principles governing TENS electrode
placement and a number of different recommended options for you to
For now I want to expand on my earlier comments with regards to
"right or wrong" and experimentation.
Just to give a little background and set this up
I've been a user of our TENS products since almost the day I
began working for physiotherapist and TENS creator, Jim
Lamers, in 1996 at the young age of 17 (they say sport
is good for you!! Haha).
I'm 33 now and have a bad back, neck, shoulders and knees...
Yeah, I know, complain complain. ;)
So being the good son, a few weeks back on a sunny Saturday
afternoon I helped my Dad move 9 cubic metres of soil. Can you see
where this is going?
Needless to say I was sore on Sunday. Monday I woke up unable to
move with pain all over, but none compared to the excruciating pain
in my lower back.
My lovely wife was kind enough get to my SportsMed and put
it on. It oddly took quite a few hours but I slowly regained some
movement - but it just wasn't helping as much as I knew it
So I decided, as I debated earlier and declined (!!), to move
the electrodes down. I'd say they came down the spine around 1
inch. That's all. In half an hour I had far more movement and less
pain than I'd had all day, just by finding what was in this
situation, the "right" spot.
TENS is not a miracle cure but it sometimes feels like
one. So the moral of the story here is, if you don't find you're
getting relief after an hour or two using an ActivLife TENS machine, you
probably need to try another position for the electrodes. It could
be slightly up, down, left right, etc..
The honest truth is, its not complicated - no matter how much
some would like to convice you otherwise. You just need to find the
right spot for you.
Now on to the 'principles'.
First - in case you may not have seen them (they're new), we
have pages devoted to each of the most common causes of chronic
pain. Each page has photographs, diagrams and/or further
explanations of recommended TENS electrode locations. We hope to
add video in 2012 to really help our customers out.
Here's an example - one of my 'favourites' - the very enjoyable
sciatica. Anyone who experiences sciatic pain knows what I mean. So
this is how to place
TENS electrodes for sciatica. Enjoy.
Principles of TENS Electrode Placement
I'll dot point this first part.
Its always best to maintain a gap of at least 2 cm between
electrodes to avoid any possible damage to your control unit
Choose either the site of the pain for stimulation of specific
targeted sensory nerves; OR
Choose locations that will provide the best access to major
sensory nerve gatherings such as ankles, wrists, the sacroiliac
joint or the nape of the neck. This will result in many sensory
nerves being stimulated simultaneously and ensure you gain the
maximum therapeutic benefit.
Where possible, choose locations that aren't directly over major
muscles. Otherwise you may trigger the moterpoint of the muscle
causing unnecessary muscle twitching and possible discomfort.
Place electrodes at the site of the pain; for example:
For neck pain, place an electrode either side of the spine, at
the level of the nape (or base) of the neck and approximately 2cm
from the spinal column. The Butterfly
Dual Electrode is excellent for this application. I'm
in love with these new electrodes.
Stimulate areas of maximum sensory feeling such as limb
extremities or acupoints;
For lower leg pain, place an electrode on each ankle
For tension headache, place an electrode on each earlobe
Combination 1 and 2
Some people like to combine options 1 and 2 by placing one
electrode at the site of the pain and the other electrode at a
sensory point on the same side of the body;
For pain in the buttocks or upper leg, place one electrode
horizontally across the spine and the other electrode on the back
of the leg, just above the knee. This is one option for treating
Sometimes pain is experienced in a different part of the body to
where its actually coming from. Its called referred pain.
The first thing to try is treating the original source of the
pain using any of the options mentioned above.
If this isn't completely satisfactory, we recommend you
complement this treatment by also managing the pain at the referred
Well, that was a long one. I hope this has been of some
As always, please feel free to leave your comments and
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