How to Build a TENS Unit

Written by kristin seale
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How to Build a TENS Unit
A TENS unit can be helpful for muscle pain, but someone with electronics proficiency should build it. (electronics image by Stanisa Martinovic from

TENS is an abbreviation for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. You can use a TENS unit for pain relief in muscles. Place electrodes from the unit on the skin where a muscle is in pain, and run a small amount of electrical current through the skin to the tissues, sometimes causing a tingling sensation or a twitch.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • A diagram for parts numbers.
  • Soldering iron and solder, or bread board
  • A case for your unit
  • Fine cutting tools
  • Solid, non-conductive work surface

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    Building Your TENS Unit

  1. 1

    Print the diagram, and label it with any alterations you will make to its parts.

  2. 2

    Gather your parts and tools and prepare your soldering iron.

  3. 3

    If you are going to place your unit in a case, measure your parts and cut out the appropriate holes for switches, LED, and muscle wires. You may want to label the outside of your case.

  4. 4

    Using your diagram, assemble and connect your parts and wires with the soldering iron, or bread board. Start with your timer and work outward, paying close attention to negative and positive charges.

  5. 5

    Insert the completed unit into a case if desired. Read the warnings below, then test your unit, using the TENS Placement Chart)

Tips and warnings

  • Recommended alterations for best use:
  • -Sticky pharmacy grade electrodes, instead of home-made conducting pads
  • -Conductivity gel, applied to skin before electrodes
  • Only someone with experience building electronics should attempt to build a TENS. A TENS has not been proven to treat chronic pain in clinical trials. Don't apply TENS unless you know the reason for your muscle pain. Don't use TENS to dull pain in an effort to overuse the muscles after application. Never use TENS if you have a pacemaker, are pregnant, have cancer or reduced sensation. Don't apply TENS to your head, the front of your neck, breast tissue or near your heart. Keep your TENS unit away from children, and store it in a child-safe area, just as you would prescription medications.

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