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Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

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TENS Machine for Arthritis in Back: What It Is, How It Works, and How to Use

A man holding his lower back with both hands due to pain

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS machine for arthritis in the back is a small, battery-operated device that delivers electrical current. This electrical stimulation works by blocking the pain signals, triggering the release of endorphins, and promoting blood flow. Also, the currents can stream in high and low frequencies. Accordingly, using TENS incorporates a simple process. Users need to identify the specific treatment area, place the electrode pads, and adjust the settings.

Arthritic pain affects millions of people worldwide, causing chronic pain in the back. Traditional methods of pain relief often involve pain medicationphysical therapy, or even surgery. However, many individuals are now turning to treatment options, such as TENS devices. It is a popular pain management tool that provides relief to pain symptoms. This article will present TENS for the condition, including how it works and how to use the unit.

What is a TENS Machine for Arthritis in the Back?

One popular tool in the medical field is the TENS machine for arthritis in the back. It is a portable device that delivers electrical impulses to the nerves in the body. It is commonly used by pain clinics, physical therapists, and health professionals. Fortunately, the development of the technology led to the availability of personal TENS devices. This allows people to use it at home or on the go.

TENS units often come in wired and wireless options. Wired TENS uses lead cables to connect the electrodes to the central device. On the other hand, wireless units eliminate the need for wires and are usually rechargeable. This innovation allows for the discreet use of TENS therapy. Nevertheless, people can use and control the device manually or through a smartphone via Bluetooth technology.

Both types of TENS devices may feature adjustable settings, various stimulation modes and reusable electrodes. Adjustable TENS allows users to customise the electric current. Subsequently, different stimulation modes (continuous, burst, modulation) provide flexibility in addressing diverse types of pain. Some TENS may also feature pre-set programs for a more direct therapy.

Causes of Arthritis in the Back

  • Joint degeneration: as people age, the spine undergoes natural degenerative changes. These changes can lead to conditions such as osteoarthritis pain, which affects the joints and can cause stiffness in the back.
  • Inflammatory arthritisrheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis can affect the spine. These conditions involve the immune system to attack the joints, leading to inflammation.
  • Injuries and overuse: trauma from injuries, repetitive motion, or overuse of the spine can contribute to the development of arthritis in the back.
  • Genetics and other factors: obesity or history of spine-related conditions can also increase the likelihood of developing arthritis in the back.

A woman using a large wing TENS on her lower back

How a TENS Machine for Arthritis in the Back Works

A TENS machine for arthritis in the back works by delivering mild electrical pulses through electrode pads placed on the skin. These electrical impulses travel through the nerves, effectively modulating the pain intensity. As a result, it can lead to a reduction in pain and can provide a method of pain relief from arthritis-related back ailments.

Accordingly, the electric stimulation can be characterised by its frequency. TENS units may offer a range of frequencies, including low and high frequencies. Low-frequency TENS therapy typically involves using electrical currents at a rate of (1 to 10 Hz). This setting is often associated with the stimulation of sensory nerves. Hence, it leads to the activation of the pain-suppressing mechanisms of the body.

Conversely, high-frequency TENS typically utilises electrical impulses at a rate above 50 Hz. This setting is common for shorter treatment durations and is believed to provide immediate pain relief. In addition, TENS devices may offer various adjustable parameters, including pulse width and intensity. The pulse width refers to the duration of each electrical pulse, while intensity is related to the strength of currents.

The Main Theories At Work

The use of TENS involves several theories to help relieve back ailment. These include Pain Gate Theory, the release of endorphins, and potential effects on blood flow. The pain gate mechanism suggests that the electrical impulses can interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Hence, the pulses can close the gate, effectively blocking the pain messages.

Another theory involves the production of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals of the body that act as natural painkillers. Furthermore, the use of TENS may potentially impact the blood flow in the treatment area. These theories help reduce pain sensations and promote a sense of well-being.

An instruction guide on how to operate the iTENS app

How to Use a TENS Machine for Arthritis in the Back

When using a TENS machine for arthritis in the back, there are simple steps to follow. Firstly, it is important to inspect the unit to ensure that all its components are in good working condition. Secondly, ensure that the device has fresh batteries or is adequately charged. Thirdly, connect the electrodes to the unit using wires or to a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless.

Then, determine the specific area of the back experiencing discomfort. Carefully place the pads, following the proper pad placement. After the electrodes are securely in place, the user can power on the device. Most TENS units feature a control panel for adjusting the settings. They may modify the frequency, intensity or duration or choose a pre-set program.

Nevertheless, it is advisable to start with the lowest settings and moderately increase it to a comfortable level. During the therapy, the user should monitor any sensations. Accordingly, the recommended treatment session lasts between 15 to 30 minutes. Once the therapy is complete, turn off the TENS unit and carefully remove the pads from the skin.

Proper Pad Placement

Before applying the electrodes, identify the specific areas of the back where the arthritis pain is localised. The skin in the treatment area should be clean and dry. This helps to optimise the adhesion of the pads. Then, place the pads. If the pain is concentrated on one side of the lower back, position the pads on either side of the pain.

Meanwhile, place the pads evenly on either side of the spine for broader pain coverage. Nevertheless, avoid placing the electrodes on broken skin or open wounds or directly to the spine. When using two or more electrodes, maintain an appropriate distance between them.


Back arthritis is caused by joint degeneration, inflammatory arthritis, injuries and overuse, and genetics. Fortunately, using a TENS machine for arthritis in the back can be a beneficial and effective treatment option. It is a small, battery-operated device that utilises low-voltage electrical currents to provide pain relief. Accordingly, it works using low or high frequencies. This functions by activating the pain gate mechanisms, triggering the production of endorphins, or promoting blood flow.

Using a TENS device requires a simple step process. The user must identify the treatment area, place the pads, adjust the settings, and activate the stimulation. Nevertheless, proper pad placement is important in the therapy. For localised back pain, place the pads on one side of the back. Meanwhile, for broader pain coverage, it is vital to position the pads evenly on either side of the spine. TENS is available in numerous outlets, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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