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

TENS Unit for Pulled Back Muscle: Usage and Placement Guide

Two iTENS electrodes and gel pads

Pulled back muscles are common injuries that may occur because of improper lifting, sudden movement, and poor posture. While rest and physical therapy are often recommended, people may also use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS). Using a TENS unit for pulled back muscle is a simple process. The user must place the pads on either side of the spine. Then, they may turn the machine on and use the adjustable settings to customise their session.

TENS therapy is growing in popularity because it is a non-invasive and drug-free method of pain relief. Moreover, it is easy to self-administer. This provides convenient relief for acute and chronic pain whenever needed. However, seeking medical advice from a health professional is ideal before using any electrotherapy device. They can help ensure safety and advise on how to use the unit. This article will present how TENS works, how to use it, and pad placement guidelines.

How Does a TENS Unit for Pulled Back Muscle Work?

A pulled back muscle is also known as back strain. This often occurs in the lower back because of repeated movements, physical exertion from lifting heavy objects, or poor posture. It is a common complaint among many people, and many treatments are available. Using a TENS unit for pulled back muscle is an effective method of pain relief for people with backaches.

Pain relief from TENS therapy is mainly achieved using two ways: pain gating and endorphin production. Pain Gating refers to the mechanism described in the Gate Control Theory of Pain. This is done by using high-frequency stimulation (50-120 Hz). This setting triggers spinal nerve cells to block pain signals from reaching the brain. It is ideal for sudden or acute pain conditions because it takes effect immediately.

Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation (2-10 Hz) triggers the release of endorphins. These hormones are natural painkillers that build up and reduce the overall sensation of pain. Endorphins also help reduce inflammation, which helps treat back strain. Many use this setting for chronic pain conditions. Overall, using TENS can produce comfortable sensations that help with backaches.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • TENS therapy is drug-free, making it suitable for those seeking to reduce their dependency on pain medication.
  • Using a TENS machine is a non-invasive procedure. This removes the risk of infections and other complications from injections or incisions.
  • TENS units are portable and battery-operated devices. They are easy to use wherever and whenever the individual wishes.
  • TENS is effective for many body aches, such as nerve painneck pain, and knee pain.


  • The effects of TENS therapy can vary from person to person. It depends on their tolerance and medical condition.
  • TENS therapy does not heal the condition. It only provides temporary relief.

A woman using the iTENS app to control the electrode on her back

How to Use a TENS Unit for Pulled Back Muscle

Using a TENS unit for pulled back muscle is a straightforward process. It starts by connecting the electrode pads to the controller and power supply. For wired units, ensure that the cables are securely attached. Meanwhile, wireless TENS users can check the connection with their controller or smartphone. Afterwards, they may apply the electrodes.

After placing the pads, the user may turn the machine on. Starting on the lowest settings is recommended to avoid sudden shock or discomfort. Then, they may gradually increase the settings according to their comfort level for optimal relief. Alternatively, they may select a preset mode for backaches for additional convenience. Then, they may start a session timer to ensure the session stays within the prescribed time.

Generally, TENS treatment sessions last between 20 and 30 minutes. However, this will vary depending on the settings used. However, the user should be careful against overusing the machine. Those who wish to use it more than once a day must take breaks in between sessions. Hence, after the time has elapsed, the person must turn the machine off and remove the pads.

Tips for Effective Usage

Consulting a medical professional before using any electrotherapy device is ideal. They may assess your condition and advise the individual on using the machine. In addition, users should read the manual from the device manufacturer to increase their understanding of how to use the device.

Before starting, the user may clean the area with soap and water. This removes excess body oil, lotion, and dirt, which may interfere with adhesion. It also helps prolong the usage of the adhesives before they require replacement. Lastly, ensure the battery is fully charged or has enough power remaining for the session.

A woman wearing an iTENS electrode on her lower back

Proper Placement of Electrodes Pads When Using a TENS Unit for Pulled Back Muscle

Proper pad placement is crucial for any TENS therapy session. This includes using a TENS unit for pulled back muscle. Often, people refer to placement charts and guides to ensure they place the adhesives correctly. Generally, users place pads on muscle areas near or on the origin of the pain. This enables the pads to deliver the electric current to the sensory nerves of the targeted area.

The user may apply the pads on either side of the spine for back pain. This depends on where the source is. They may also attach adhesives on both sides. However, it is crucial to keep them away from the spinal cord. Moreover, ensure there is at least a one-inch distance between the pads to prevent electrical current interference between them.

Some additional areas to avoid are those with irritated, infected, or broken skin. This is because electrical stimulation may cause the condition to worsen. Although TENS is easy to self-administer, users may ask for help in placing the adhesives.

Techniques to Make Your Experience More Comfortable

TENS machines use externally applied electrodes to deliver electrical impulses to the body during the session. While this is an effective method of pain relief, making the session as comfortable as possible is ideal. One technique is to choose a relaxed position during the therapy session. They may lie on their sides or sit in a supportive chair.

Furthermore, they may select to do activities, such as reading or listening to music. If they feel any discomfort, it is advised to lower the intensity until the unpleasant sensation fades. In addition, they may use wireless units to avoid the restrictions of electrode wires.


A TENS unit for pulled back muscle is an effective pain relief method for many individuals. This is because it is easy to operate and takes effect quickly compared to other methods. Simply place the electrodes on either side of the back, closest to the pain source. Then, using its adjustable settings, they may customise their treatment depending on their condition. High-frequency stimulation can trigger spinal nerve cells to block pain signals. Meanwhile, low-frequency stimulation induces endorphin production.

Proper pad placement is crucial for an effective TENS therapy session. For back strain, users must carefully place the electrode pads on muscle areas on the back while avoiding the spinal cord. To ensure safety, it is recommended to consult a medical professional before using TENS. Some may also prefer to use wireless TENS units for additional convenience during sessions. Those interested in a wireless device may consider the iTENS from iTENS Australia.

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