Using TENS with Tennis Elbow

This is another common condition where TENS machines can be used to help with pain control and to return the range of elbow movement back to normality. The aim of TENS machines is to reduce the intensity of pain at rest or on movement, reduce the inflammation and promote a gradual return to normal function.

The first step is to place one of the electrodes over the outer aspect of the elbow over the most painful area, if known, and the second one opposite on the inner aspect of the elbow.  This can be seen in the diagrams on page 14 in our Easy Guide to TENS Pain Relief.

The next step is to select the timing, pulse rate, mode and intensity and then use your TENS machine as often as needed – this may be continuously during the first few days and at an intensity which may be fairly strong and firm or quite strong later which overrides the pain as you begin to move the elbow joint actively or passively with your other arm – it is a matter of personal preference and trial to see which suits you best!

After a few days, it should be possible to reduce the treatment time to shorter sessions of around 30-60 minutes and then 30 minutes once or twice each a day as your symptoms improve.

It may also be very helpful to use other treatments at this time in association with TENS machine e.g. analgesics, anti-inflammatories and local anti-inflammatory gel, mousse or spray e.g. ibuprofen or similar and cold or hot packs. Consult your medical practitioner or pharmacist if necessary, Gentle exercise can also be helpful, beginning with passive and then active exercise, including stretching exercises with a full range of elbow movement as your condition improves and returns to normal.

Recent Research:

1.Chesterton LS, van der Windt DA, Sim J, Lewis M, Mallen CD, Mason EE, Warlow C, Vohora K, Hay EM. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for the management of tennis elbow: a pragmatic randomized controlled trial: the TATE trial (ISRCTN 87141084). BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009 Dec 11;10:156. This study is currently underway and ends in 2011.

2. Su X, Wu ZQ Cao XM, Effects of electro-acupuncture of different frequencies for treatment of patients with refractory tennis elbow syndrome. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu 2010 Jan;30(1):43-5. The electro-acupuncture of a pulsed waveform is better than the electro-acupuncture of continuous waveform  and is a better treatment for refractory tennis elbow syndrome.

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