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TENS Treatment for Back Pain: Usage Guideline

A woman holding her lower back due to pain while sitting

Back discomfort is a common medical condition that affects millions of people. Fortunately, there is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS treatment for back pain. It uses a battery-operated device that delivers electrical current to the nerves in the body. Accordingly, the utilisation of TENS involves a simple process. The individual needs to connect the electrode pads to the unit. Then, the user identifies the treatment area, places the electrodes, and adjusts the settings.

Acute pain or chronic pain conditions in the back can be debilitating. It makes it difficult to perform daily activities and compromises the quality of life. Traditional pain relief methods like cold packs, physical therapy, and pain medications often fall short. This is where the TENS medical device comes into play as a method of pain relief. The following sections will present TENS for the ailment, including how it works and how to apply it.

What is a TENS Treatment for Back Pain?

TENS treatment for back pain involves using an electronic device that sends an electric current to the body via an electrode pad placed on the skin. Accordingly, TENS can help address different types of pain, whether chronic or acute conditions. Medical professionals, such as physical therapists or pain management specialists, and individuals often incorporate TENS into their pain treatment plans for the back.

Subsequently, TENS devices are available in both wired and wireless configurations. Wired TENS require the user to attach the electrode wires to the central unit. On the other hand, wireless devices eliminate the need for wires, providing greater freedom of movement. Nevertheless, individuals can control the therapy manually or with the use of a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth technology.

One of the key features of TENS is customisability. Users can adjust the frequency, intensity, and duration of the electrical stimulation. Hence, it allows for personalised methods of pain relief, ensuring a tailored therapy to individual needs. Moreover, TENS often come with pre-set programs. This offers convenience by allowing users to select a specific treatment mode without manually adjusting the settings.

Causes of Back Pain

  • Muscle spasms or ligament strain: muscle or ligament tears in the back due to sudden movements or lifting heavy objects can result in back discomfort.
  • Structural issues: conditions like musculoskeletal pain, arthritis pain, osteoarthritis pain, and skeletal irregularities can lead to the ailment.
  • Bulging discs: the discs that act as a cushion between the vertebrae in the spine can bulge or rupture, pressing on a nerve and causing pain.
  • Poor posture: prolonged periods of sitting or standing with poor posture can strain the back muscles and contribute to discomfort.
  • Inactivity: lack of regular physical activity and exercise can weaken back muscles.

A large wing TENS from iTENS Australia

How a TENS Treatment for Back Pain Works

Generally, TENS treatment for back pain works by delivering electrical pulses to the body. This electrical stimulation functions in different mechanisms. One way TENS works is by stimulating the production of endorphins, the natural painkillers of the body. When the body experiences the electrical currents, it can trigger the release of endorphins, which promotes a sense of well-being and quality of life.

Another way TENS therapy provides relief is through a mechanism known as pain gating. This theory suggests that the spinal cord has “gates”, and when there are electrical currents, this can block the transmission of pain signals. Essentially, the TENS pulses “gate out” the pain signals, preventing them from reaching the pain. Hence, it reduces the sensation of pain.

Furthermore, TENS can help improve blood circulation in the treatment area. The electrical signals can cause the blood vessels to dilate, which allows for better blood flow to the region. As a result, it can aid in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, as well as in the removal of waste products. Therefore, it can promote healing and reduce inflammation.

Benefits of Electrotherapy

TENS offers benefits for individuals seeking relief. Firstly, it is a portable option. TENS devices are compact and lightweight. Thus, people can use them at home or on the go. Secondly, TENS therapy is highly customisable. This allows users to adjust the settings to their specific needs. Hence, this customisation enables individuals to personalise their treatment to achieve optimal relief.

Thirdly, it is non-invasive and drug-free. It does not require surgical operations or injections and the need for oral medications. This eliminates the adverse effects of those solutions. Furthermore, TENS is cost-effective. It diminishes the ongoing cost of medications or consultations with healthcare providers.

A person applying a large wing TENS in the back of another person

Usage Guide When Applying a TENS Treatment for Back Pain

Adhering to usage guidelines when applying TENS treatment for back pain is crucial for effective therapy. Firstly, consulting a healthcare professional before undergoing TENS is important. This is particularly true for people with underlying health conditions. Secondly, connect the electrodes to the unit using wires or through a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless.

Then, identify the exact treatment region in the back. Clean and dry the skin before placing the electrode pads. Usually, for a back ailment, it is advisable to position the pads on either side of the spine. Nevertheless, it is crucial to adhere to the recommended proper pad placement in the user manual or to the advice of a medical professional. Next, turn on the device.

Most TENS may require the user to adjust the settings. This may include frequency, intensity, and duration of electrical stimulation. Subsequently, some TENS may allow users to choose a specific program. Once set, activate the stimulation and note any responses from the body. The duration usually lasts between 15 to 30 minutes. After use, turn off the unit and gently remove the electrodes.

When to See a Doctor?

If an individual experiences a sudden or severe increase in back pain while using TENS, it is crucial to seek medical attention. This could indicate an underlying issue that needs urgent evaluation by a medical professional. If the TENS treatment triggers concerning sensations, such as burning or sharp ailment, it is advisable to discontinue the therapy and consult a doctor.

In addition, if the skin underneath the electrodes becomes red or inflamed, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional. Skin irritation may indicate an allergic reaction, improper electrode placement, or sensitivity to the adhesives.


In summary, muscle spasms or ligament strain, structural issues, bulging discs, poor posture, and inactivity can cause back ailments. Fortunately, there is a TENS treatment for back pain to manage the discomfort effectively. TENS therapy involves the use of a wired or wireless device that delivers low-voltage electrical currents. Accordingly, it works by blocking the pain signals, triggering the production and release of endorphins, and promoting blood flow in the treatment region.

Furthermore, TENS provides a range of benefits. It is portable, customisable, non-invasive, drug-free, and cost-effective. Applying a TENS treatment requires a simple step process. The user needs to identify the exact location of the back ailment and place the electrodes. Then, the person must adjust the settings or choose a pre-set program. Nevertheless, it is crucial to know when to seek medical help for the safe operation of TENS. Multiple stores offer TENS, including the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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