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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Unit for Back Pain: How It Helps to Improve the Quality of Life

An elderly man holding his lower back due to pain while sitting

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS unit for back pain is a medical device that sends electrical impulses to the nerves to alleviate discomfort. Accordingly, TENS therapy works in various ways to help improve the quality of life. Foremost, the electrical pulses can block the transmission of pain signals. Additionally, it can prompt the release of endorphins and improve blood flow. Furthermore, TENS treatment is non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, cost-effective, and can be a complementary therapy.

Back ailment is a common issue that many people experience. It can be debilitating and impact daily activities. Traditional methods of pain relief may include pain medications and physical therapy. However, they can be costly and may not always provide long-lasting pain management. Fortunately, TENS therapy is a safe and effective treatment for backaches. The following sections will present the TENS electrical device for back pain, how it works, and how to operate it.

What is a TENS Unit for Back Pain?

Backache is a common condition that affects the muscles, bones, and nerves in the back area. It can vary in pain intensity and may be caused by various factors. This may include muscle strain, injury, poor posture, or underlying medical conditions. Nevertheless, back ailment can significantly impact individuals and can reduce the quality of life. Fortunately, TENS devices are effective technology for pain relief.

The TENS unit for back pain is a battery-operated device that delivers electrical pulses to the body. It sends electrical currents through electrode pads placed on the skin. Accordingly, medical professionals and pain clinics commonly incorporate TENS into their treatment plans for patients. Also, athletes and individuals may utilise TENS devices as part of their self-pain management routines.

TENS devices are available in two main types: wired and wireless. Wired TENS units are connected to the electrode pads using lead cables. On the other hand, wireless TENS units are designed to be more portable. They utilise wireless technology, such as Bluetooth. Nevertheless, both types offer various features. This may include adjustable settings and pre-set programs.

Causes of Backaches

  • Muscle spasms: overexertion or sudden movement can result in muscle spasms, leading to backaches.
  • Injury: Trauma to the back, such as from falls or sports injuries, can lead to backaches.
  • Poor posture: Prolonged sitting or standing in positions that place strain on the back can lead to musculoskeletal pain. This causes tension in the back area.
  • Herniated disc: A bulging disc in the spine can put pressure on nearby nerves, resulting in back numbness.
  • Arthritic pain: Conditions such as osteoarthritis pain can cause inflammation and degeneration of the spine.
  • Structural abnormalities: Congenital spinal abnormalities, such as scoliosis, may lead to chronic pain in the back.

A small and large wing TENS and refill gel pads from iTENS Australia

How a TENS Unit for Back Pain Works

The TENS unit for back pain works by employing several analgesic effects. Foremost, TENS therapy operates on the principle of the Pain Gate Theory. It posits that non-painful sensory input can block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. The electrical impulses from TENS can stimulate non-painful sensory fibres. Hence, this can effectively “close the gate”, reducing the perception of backaches.

Secondly, the application of electrical stimulation can trigger the production and release of endorphins. These are the chemicals of the body that act as natural painkillers. Endorphins bind to opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This also inhibits the transmission of pain signals and produces a sense of well-being and relief. This natural effect contributes to the reduction of back ailment.

Finally, the electrical pulses from TENS can also influence blood circulation in the treatment region. By inducing vasodilation, the device promotes the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues in the body. This also aids in the removal of metabolic waste products. Nevertheless, this modulation of blood flow supports tissue healing and recovery and promotes relaxation in the back area.

Benefits of Using TENS

Firstly, TENS therapy is non-invasive. It offers an alternative to invasive procedures like injections, incisions, or surgical procedures. Secondly, TENS treatment is drug-free. It mitigates backaches without the use of opioid analgesics or oral medications. Thirdly, the TENS unit allows for customisable treatment parameters. It allows individuals to adjust the pulse rate, intensity, and pulse duration.

Fourthly, compared to other pain management approaches, TENS therapy represents a cost-effective option. It eliminates the ongoing cost of medications or frequent visits to healthcare providers. Additionally, TENS serves as a complementary therapy that can be integrated with other treatment modalities.

A woman manually operating TENS on her back

How to Operate a TENS Unit for Back Pain

Operating a TENS unit for back pain involves several simple steps. Begin by identifying the area of the back experiencing discomfort. Then, prepare the skin in the treatment region. Position electrodes accordingly, adhering to the proper electrode placement. Next, connect the electrodes to the central machine using lead cables or a smartphone via Bluetooth for wireless devices.

Afterwards, turn on the TENS unit. This may allow individuals to adjust the treatment parameters. It may include modifying the frequency, intensity, and duration of electrical stimulation. Also, advanced TENS models have pre-set programs. Hence, select the program that directly targets backaches. Begin with the lowest settings and gradually increase it to a comfortable level.

Commence the treatment session by activating the device to deliver electrical stimulation. Monitor the sensations experienced during stimulation. Ensure that they are tolerable and provide relief without causing discomfort. Generally, the treatment duration may last between 15 to 30 minutes. Once the therapy is complete, turn off the TENS unit and carefully remove the electrodes from the skin.

Electrode Placement

Begin by determining the specific area of the backache. This may be a localised area or a broader region. Then, ensure that the skin on the back is clean and dry. Next, apply the electrodes to the skin in a manner that covers the identified treatment area. Generally, position the electrode pads on either side of the pain.

Do not place the electrodes directly on the spinal cord, bony prominences, areas with minimal muscle and tissue coverage, and broken skin. Additionally, maintain an appropriate distance between the electrodes. This helps to ensure that the electrical current is evenly distributed.


In summary, muscle spasms, injury, poor posture, and herniated discs are the common causes of backaches. Fortunately, the use of a TENS unit for back pain is effective and can help improve the quality of life. It is an electrical device that delivers electrical currents to the body as a method of pain relief. Accordingly, this electrical stimulation works through several analgesic effects. It can block the transmission of pain signals, prompt the production of endorphins, and improve blood flow.

Furthermore, TENS therapy provides various benefits. It is non-invasive, drug-free, customisable, cost-effective, and serves as a complementary therapy to other treatment modalities. Moreover, operating the TENS unit involves several simple steps. Begin by identifying the treatment area and preparing the skin. Then, place the pads following the proper electrode placement. Finally, turn on the device and adjust the settings. Those who want to purchase a TENS machine may like to check out the online retailer iTENS Australia.

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