Where to Place TENS Pads for Hand Pain

6 min read

If you're looking for an alternative way to manage your hand pain that doesn't involve steroidal medications or narcotics, you may be looking into TENS therapy. This guide covers where to place TENS pads for hand pain so that your sessions are more effective.

Causes of Hand Pain

Whether it's due to repetitive use injuries, an inflammatory condition, or sudden trauma, hand pain can be debilitating. Some of the most common causes of hand pain include the following:


Arthritis is an inflammatory disease that affects the joints. When your joints become inflamed, it can limit your range of motion, make your joints feel stiff, and cause a lot of pain. Some of the ways arthritis may be treated include steroidal injections, pain relievers, and surgery.

Thumb Tendonitis

Also referred to as De Quervain's tenosynovitis, this condition causes swelling in the tendons near your thumb. The pressure against your nerves can lead to numbness, pain, tingling, and loss of motion. Doctors recommend using ice packs, pain relievers, and steroidal injections to manage the condition but will opt for surgery if these options fail.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

For those who have occupations that require the constant use of their hands or fingers, there's a high likelihood of suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome at some point. This is a repetitive use injury that causes the median nerve to become pinched due to inflammation. It's recommended that you use a wrist brace, ice packs, and pain relievers as needed, but the condition may progress to the point where you require surgery to release the pressure against your median nerve.


Gout is a type of arthritis that occurs when elevated levels of uric acid are present in your blood. When uric acid reaches your extremities, it can form into long, sharp crystals that injure your joints. The best way to treat gout is with medication that reduces your uric acid levels and dietary changes that reduce uric acid buildup.


Wrist and finger sprains, contusions, and broken bones can all cause inflammation in your hand. While you're recovering from the injury, you may experience pain, numbness, and tingling sensations similar to the symptoms of arthritis. These injuries also increase the chances of having arthritis later on in life.

How TENS Units Can Help with Hand Pain

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is an alternative form of treatment for many people who wish to manage their hand pain without depending on powerful medications. TENS treatment isn't a cure for wrist and hand pain, but studies have shown some promise that it may reduce your brain's perception of pain. The way it works is by sending electrical impulses into an inflamed nerve that can interrupt the signals it sends to the brain.

These impulses may also be able to relax tense muscles and reduce the inflammation that's aggravating the nerves. TENS therapy is considered safe and has very few side effects, and you can even use a portable TENS unit from the comfort of your home.

Where to Place the TENS Pads

For the best results, you need to follow the proper TENS unit electrode placement for hands. This can vary based on where your pain is, so you might need to make adjustments based on the cause and location of your pain. There are two types of pads provided with a TENS unit; one is meant to administer the impulses while the other receives them.

You want the inflamed nerve to rest between the two pads so that the electrical current is directed through it. For example, you can place one of each type of electrode on each side of your wrist, about two inches apart, and then another just past the pad of your thumb and below your pinky finger for carpal tunnel syndrome. The impulses will target the median nerve, which is what causes numbness and pain for those with this condition.

Tips for Effective TENS Placement

Place the pads over fleshy areas of your hand. When you place an electrode too close to bone, it can cause irritation and pain. Another common mistake is placing the pads too close together. Make sure you have one to two inches of space between the electrodes.

Other Ways TENS Machines Work

Scientists are still studying TENS technology to see how it works and how to make it more effective. It's been known to provide relief for many people suffering from pain due to injuries, knee pain, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, foot pain and more, but further study is needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you use a TENS unit for hand arthritis?

TENS therapy may help if the arthritis is limited to a single area. Surrounding the painful area with proper pad placement can help manage your pain. Again, it should be noted that this is not a cure, and the best approach is to consult with a medical professional for advice.

What is the TENS unit placement for thumb pain?

The muscles and nerves that control thumb motions are located in the wrist and forearm, so place one pad over your wrist, just below your thumb, and the other about two inches away on your forearm.

What is the TENS unit placement for wrist pain?

Place the pads on both sides of the wrist to target the median nerve. If you have a unit with more than two pads, you can place those pads next to the pad of your thumb and just below your pinky.

Where can I get a TENS machine?

Caputron offers several portable and affordable TENS devices that are cleared by the FDA.

The Bottom Line

TENS therapy is becoming a popular alternative to traditional treatments that require the use of powerful medications and surgery. Once you know where to place TENS pads for hand pain, you're more likely to manage your pain effectively.


  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/hand-pain
  2. https://caputron.com/blogs/chronic-pain/what-does-a-tens-unit-do
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186747/
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/transcutaneous-electrical-nerve-stimulation-tens/

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