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AU Registered Medical Device
12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS For Back Pain: How It Works

Woman holding her lower back

Back pain is a condition that hinders people from functioning at their best. Fortunately, there are tools to reduce or stop the pain. One of them is the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) therapy. TENS is a portable battery-operated device. It works by stimulating the nerves through electrical currents. As a result, people who use TENS for back pain relieve their pain or feel more at ease.

Since back pain is a common ailment, many choose to let it disappear independently. In addition, they buy and consume painkillers when it is too much. However, doing this regularly may cause adverse side effects that will only manifest later in life. With that, TENS is a better alternative. It is drug-free and non-invasive. To understand better, the following sections will present in greater detail how it manages pain, its benefits, and safety precautions when using the device.

How Does TENS for Back Pain Work?

TENS for back pain provides relief by sending impulses through the electrodes. These pads have adhesives that allow them to stick to the body. Setting the frequency depends on the pain level people feel. Professionals recommend starting with the low frequency, which would be at around 2-10 Hz. Moreover, it is suitable for people with chronic pain such as osteoarthritis and sciatica so that the body does not grow immune to TENS.

Meanwhile, high frequencies range from 50-120 Hz. When TENS is set this high, the electrical currents overwhelm the nervous system. Thus, its ability to transmit pain signals to the brain slows down. It is effective for patients with acute back pain because of injuries, muscle strains, or even menstrual pain. Treatment may last for 30 minutes, up to four times a day.

They can control the frequency, duration, and intensity on their own. However, some units have pre-set programs like the ones from iTENS. It utilizes both the low and high frequencies in a single session. This is another way for the body not to build resistance to the stimulation. Consequently, the therapy will be more effective.

Features of a TENS Machine

The features of a TENS machine may differ depending on the manufacturer. Hence, it is important to check the instructions as they are not all made the same. There are still common key traits, and they are as follows:

  • Pads – The pads are one of the most vital parts of TENS. The device sends impulses to the skin through them.
  • Machine – It is where the buttons are to operate and adjust the settings.
  • Lead Wires – These connect the machine to the pads for the currents to flow.
  • Bluetooth Connectivity – Wireless units have this so people can manage TENS using mobile phones.

TENS pad placement on the lower back

Benefits of Using TENS for Back Pain

Office employees are a group of people that often experience back pain. The long exposure to being at their desks contributes to this. Fortunately, one of the benefits of TENS for back pain is it is discreet. Wireless TENS units do not require the typical cable that comes with them. Moreover, they are small. Thus, they can use the device at their office without others noticing.

Moreover, wireless devices can connect to Bluetooth. This makes using TENS more convenient through its advanced technology. Patients can simply open the mobile application after connecting and control TENS from there. The iTENS wireless units from iTENS Australia have a user-friendly interface, making it easy for everyone to navigate it on their own.

Furthermore, using TENS reduces medication intake. Long-term use of painkillers damages body organs such as the liver. Hence, people need to rely on them less. Fortunately, they will no longer need drugs with the help of TENS. It is effective and useful. In addition, a study showed that people who manage pain with TENS had fewer back pain concerns in a month.

How to Make the Most Out of a TENS Machine

TENS is most effective when people maintain the device properly. It is necessary to clean it every now and then to make sure it is free from dirt. They can get a damp cloth to wipe it with. Moreover, the storage is also important. When not in use, they should place the machine alongside the pads in a dry place.

For further security, they can put the pads inside a resealable bag. It will help the electrodes to be in a good state. In addition, they need to charge their units depending on the instructions of the manufacturers.

TENS on the lower back

Safety Precautions of TENS for Back Pain

To ensure the success of TENS for back pain, people must follow the safety precautions. Firstly, they must speak to their doctors. Even if TENS is a safe device for all to use, it is best to consult with a professional first. It is especially necessary for people who are in vulnerable states, like pregnant women and people with pacemakers and epilepsy. Additionally, they must do this when their back pain is persistent.

Secondly, they should avoid placing the pads on damaged skin. There might be an infection if the adhesive touches broken skin due to dirt and dust. On the other hand, it is recommended to attach the electrodes on or near the area of the spine. However, they must not place it directly on the spinal cord, even if the pain is seemingly in that area. They may place the pads on either side of the spine instead.

Lastly, they must not use the device while in water. An occasion might arise when they would want to use it in the shower, but this is not possible. The TENS machine uses electrical components, and it will get damaged.

Are There Risks?

TENS has low risks. Hence, people can use it long-term to improve and manage pain conditions. One minor risk is skin irritation. The stickiness of the pads might cause burns and redness after use. Those with more sensitive skin may want to use hypoallergenic pads to prevent skin burns.

Another risk is the discomfort they might feel during sessions. Some may find the tingling sensation of TENS uncomfortable. However, it is important to note that it is normal since it uses electrical impulses. Physiotherapists advise to take breaks in between if it is too much to handle.


Using TENS for back pain is one of the alternatives to medication and other treatments. It is drug-free and non-invasive. Moreover, it works by transmitting electrical currents through the electrode pads. These gel pads are vital for treatment. Hence, maintaining and storing them properly is also essential. Correct pad placement is also necessary for effective pain relief. Furthermore, using TENS reduces medication intake.

TENS can help manage acute or chronic pain conditions. People considering purchasing their unit can check online by visiting iTENS Australia. They offer the FDA-cleared iTENS units. These wireless units are convenient as they can be operated manually or via a smartphone app. Moreover, it is discreet when worn under clothing. Thus, people who use the device can stay active while undergoing treatment. However, consult a doctor first before using TENS. This will also help them understand the therapy more.

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