Can You Use a TENS Unit for IT Band Pain?

Can you use a tens unit for it band pain?

It’s the bane of every runner’s existence—the IT band. The iliotibial band is a tendon that runs all the way from the outer hip bone to the shin. This long tendon makes it possible to rotate the hips laterally, and also acts as a stabilizer for the knee. IT band syndrome is brought about when the IT band is used unevenly and rubs repeatedly against the bone. This friction causes the IT band to become inflamed. It’s extremely common for runners, cyclists, and other active people to suffer from IT band syndrome. IT band syndrome causes a lot of pain in those who have it. Some folks have wondered whether you can use a TENS unit for IT band pain. The short answer is: yes!

How Can TENS Therapy Help IT Band Syndrome?

IT band syndrome is one of the many afflictions that can be made more manageable with the use of TENS therapy. TENS therapy is designed to provide very quick and effective relief from localized pain. The therapy uses gentle electrical impulses to stop pain signals from traveling to the brain. The electrical impulses are sent through electrode pads which can be placed directly on the painful area. TENS replaces the pain with a gentle and tingling sensation at the location of the electrode pads. TENS therapy also stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s all-natural painkiller. 

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TENS Unit Pad Placements for IT Band Pain

With all of that in mind, it’s clear that using a TENS unit for IT band pain is not a bad idea. The TENS electrode pads can be placed anywhere along the IT band. Most people find them effective around the outer knee or higher up towards the hip. Since TENS is safe and non-addictive, it can be used as often as one needs for quick pain relief. Common over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories have negative long-term effects and can actually hinder healing. However, TENS is non-invasive and has no dangerous side-effects.

TENS therapy for knee painDoes tens therapy work for IT band pain?Hip TENS Electrode Pad placement for IT band pain

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TENS Therapy is an Effective Treatment, Not a Cure

That being said, those who are suffering from IT band syndrome should keep in mind that TENS does not address the source of the problem. IT band syndrome is often caused by things like running on unsupportive shoes, running downhill, or running with poor form. It’s common among new runners, but can also affect experienced runners or non-runners as well. Those who have been diagnosed with IT band syndrome should talk to their care provider to discover the source of their injury and address it directly. TENS is an effective way to find relief from the common pain that comes along with IT band syndrome, but it won’t address the injury itself.

Other Ways to Expedite Healing & Relief

There are things a person can do in addition to using a TENS unit for IT band pain that will expedite healing and relief. First and foremost, athletes should give their IT band plenty of rest. If not, the pain can become chronic and may eventually require surgery in the most extreme cases. Stretching and applying heat and ice will also help with IT band pain and recovery. All of these things can be done safely along with TENS. As with any self-treatment, it’s important to listen to your body and find out what works best for you. For many athletes, TENS has proven to be a reliable form of relief, and may be worth trying if you’re suffering from IT band pain.

TENS Unit pain relief for IT band pain


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By Mike Williams | October 31, 2017 | 2 Comments

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