How to Use a Tens Machine on Rotator Cuff Injuries

TENS unit may help treat rotator cuff injuries.

Your rotator cuff is a group of tendons from muscles that originate from your shoulder blade. According to the Mayo Clinic, your rotator cuff helps hold your upper arm bone in your shoulder socket and results in the greatest range of motion of any joint in your body. Because of this great range of motion, your shoulder joint has to be somewhat unstable, which can result in damage. Most rotator cuff injuries heal with conservative treatment; however, a transcutaneous electric nerve stimulator (TENS) may help speed up this process, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). Follow these guidelines to correctly use a TENS unit to treat your rotator cuff injury.


Step 1

Test the battery pack of the TENS unit to make sure it is fully charged. Turn the control knobs to "Off" before starting therapy.

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Step 2

Clean your shoulder skin with rubbing alcohol and make sure your skin is dry.

Step 3

Place a thin coat of gel on the bottom of each electrode to help the electric current transmit through your skin.


Step 4

Place the electrodes around the painful area of your shoulder. Place one electrode on the front of your shoulder and one behind it, if you have two electrodes. If you have four electrodes, place one electrode on the front, one on the back, one on the side and one at the top of your shoulder blade,

Step 5

Connect the electrode wires to the TENS unit.

Step 6

Set the TENS unit to the setting recommended by your doctor. Keep the TENS unit on your skin for the length of time recommended by your doctor.

Step 7

Clean the electrodes and your skin with soap and water after treatment. Replace the unit battery with a charged battery. Recharge the old battery.

Things You'll Need

  • TENS unit

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • TENS unit gel


Do not get into water with a TENS unit attached. Do not place on your head or neck, particularly if you have seizures. Reduce your settings if you feel a muscle twitch.




Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.

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