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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Machine for Back: What It Is, How It Works, and How To Use

A man putting his hands on his lower back

A TENS machine for back pain is one of the efficient pain management methods. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machines have been used for decades to alleviate pain and promote healing. It is a portable device that sends electrical impulses from the electrodes to the skin. This enables the body to block pain signals and release endorphins. Additionally, it is easy to use. Individuals place the pads on the pain area and adjust the settings.

Back pain occurs due to various reasons. The common issues affecting the back are muscle overuse, strains, degenerative disc disease, and osteoarthritis. These conditions can be acute or chronic. Nevertheless, effective pain management is essential to prevent further damage and reduce the intensity of discomfort. In this guide, we will explore what a TENS machine is, how it works, and how to use it properly.

What is a TENS Machine for Back

A TENS machine for back pain is a portable device that uses electrical stimulation. It consists of a battery-operated unit and adhesive electrode pads. These pads deliver the electrical pulses to the skin to reach the underlying nerves. In addition, the machine has adjustable settings to modify the intensity and pattern of the stimulation.

Many devices use wires to connect to the electrodes. Thus, individuals need to connect the machine through cables first. On the other hand, some modern versions use wireless electrode pads. They eliminate the need for a wired connection and instead use Bluetooth technology. Hence, a wireless TENS machine can connect remotely to a smartphone or tablet through an app.

Moreover, this therapy device is common in physical therapy or treatment centres. It helps people manage injuries or chronic pain under the guidance of a medical professional. However, it is also suitable for home use. Nevertheless, it is advisable to consult a doctor or physical therapist before using a TENS machine for the first time. They can guide patients on the operation of the device or whether it is an appropriate treatment.

Advantages Over Other Relief Methods

  • A TENS machine is a non-invasive and natural pain relief method. It does not carry the risks associated with anaesthesia or side effects of medicines.
  • The electrode pads adhere firmly without leaving permanent marks. Additionally, it does not involve incisions or needles.
  • The procedure is short and can be done at home without professional help.
  • It is non-habit forming.
  • The device is cost-effective. It allows multiple uses through reusable pads.
  • It can treat a wide range of pain conditions, including pain from other parts of the body.
  • The programmable settings of TENS enable individuals to control their pain relief.

A woman using a wireless TENS unit on the back while holding a smartphone

How a TENS Machine for Back Works

A TENS machine for back pain works by sending electrical signals to stimulate the sensory nerves. The device uses varying frequency levels to reduce pain. In high frequencies (50-150 Hz), the electric current induces the gating mechanisms in the spinal cord to close. Thus, it hinders the pain signals from reaching the receptors in the brain. This function is based on the Gate Control Theory of Pain.

Conversely, low frequencies (2-10 Hz) trigger the production of endorphins. These natural hormones have pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. Endorphins bind to the sensory neurons and inhibit them from receiving pain messages. This level also produces mild pulsing sensations, which boosts blood circulation. As a result, it helps reduce swelling in inflamed areas.

It is important to note that while TENS therapy can provide temporary relief from back pain, it does not treat the underlying cause. It is vital to consult a healthcare professional to determine the cause of the pain and develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Hence, a TENS machine can fit into the overall strategy to reduce pain and improve quality of life.

Related Back Aches That Can Be Treated

Many medical conditions manifest back pain symptoms. One of the leading factors is arthritis, or the wear and tear of the joints in the back. This causes inflammation, which results in pain. Another cause is the compression of the sciatic nerve. It is common in people who have a slipped disc or degenerative spine issues.

TENS therapy can also help treat muscle spasms or tightness due to poor posture. It is also beneficial for those suffering from fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain throughout the body. Lastly, it can alleviate period cramps or intense contractions in the lower back during labour.

Pad placement of TENS machine on one side of the back

How to Use a TENS Machine for Back

A TENS device is easy to use. Nevertheless, it is important to be familiar with the features to maximise relief. To use a TENS machine for back pain, stick the electrode pads on clean, dry skin. Make sure that the pads are firmly in place and do come off easily. Next, turn on the machine and adjust the settings according to individual needs.

Start with a low intensity and gradually increase the levels as the therapy progresses. The frequency may depend on the type of pain, whether acute or chronic and mild or severe. In addition, set the treatment time between 15 to 30 minutes. The duration may be extended as needed during subsequent sessions.

After the therapy, turn off the machine before removing the TENS pads. Wipe off the pads and store the device properly. A TENS machine can be used daily for three to four times for chronic back pain. However, allot a 20-minute break in between. It is also essential to check the condition of the skin and ensure they are not irritated.

Pad Placement Guide

Correct electrode placement is crucial to attaining effective pain relief. For widespread back pain, place the TENS pads on both sides of the spine. For pain on one side, position the electrodes on either side of the sore area. The pads should not touch or overlap each other.

The pad placement may differ based on the reaction of a person to the electrical current. If the impulses are not hitting the right nerves, alter the arrangement until it produces therapeutic effects. A vital thing to remember is to not place the electrodes directly on the backbone, as it may interrupt the pain pathways.


A TENS machine for back pain is a safe and effective treatment for chronic and acute pain. It is a natural method using mild electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves and reduce pain. TENS can help treat neuropathic pain, musculoskeletal pain, and joint pain. Additionally, it works by blocking pain signals and releasing more endorphins. The device is easy to operate, and anyone can use it without needing to visit a clinic or therapy centre.

To facilitate treatment, place the electrodes on either side of the pain area and turn on the machine. Start with the lowest intensity and slowly increase to a comfortable level. Nevertheless, it requires precautions to prevent safety risks. Due to the electrical currents, do not use TENS while bathing or near water. Likewise, avoid using TENS while sleeping or driving. For the most effective results, it is best to consult a medical professional for proper guidance.

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