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12-month warranty
Same day dispatch
Professionally endorsed

TENS Unit Lower Back: What It Is, How It Works, And How To Use

Man with lower back pain

Lower back pain is a disabling condition that affects millions of people worldwide. To manage their condition, individuals look for various pain relief methods. One possible solution is a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) machine. A TENS unit for the lower back uses mild electrical impulses to reduce backaches and boost circulation. It is also easy to use and involves a few steps. The treatment requires pad placement and adjustment of settings to control the stimulation.

Back pain occurs for various reasons. The common condition is muscle soreness due to strenuous physical activity or trauma. In addition, the symptoms can range from mild to severe. Hence, effective pain management is important to alleviate discomfort. Doctors and physical therapists may recommend TENS therapy as an alternative to pain medications. In this article, we will delve into the types of TENS machines, how they work, and how to operate the device.

What is a TENS Unit for the Lower Back

A TENS unit for the lower back is a portable battery-operated device with a pair of adhesive electrode pads. When placed on the skin, the pads deliver low-voltage electrical currents to stimulate the underlying nerves. The strength of the currents is adjustable based on the pain or tolerance level of the individual. This customisation feature helps address different types of conditions.

TENS machines come in two types: standard and wireless. A standard or traditional unit has a handheld control and lead cables that connect to the pads. On the other hand, a wireless TENS machine has a compact power generator that attaches the electrode pads. These pads are slim and flexible and are suitable for multiple areas of the body.

The TENS units also come with several features. Aside from customisable programs, some offer preset modes. These are selectable options with predefined settings. Therefore, users can choose a desired therapy from the menu to start treatment immediately. Moreover, the device utilises either replaceable or rechargeable batteries. Most wireless TENS machines are rechargeable, making them more cost and energy-efficient.

Related Pain Conditions That Can Be Treated

  • Osteoarthritis – chronic inflammation of the joints due to wear and tear.
  • Spinal cord injury – damage to the nerve bundles in the spinal cord. This can include sports injuries leading to limited mobility.
  • Degenerative disc disease – a medical condition that affects the intervertebral discs in the spine. It includes spinal stenosis, herniated disc, and spondylolisthesis.
  • Muscle strains – injury to a muscle or tendon in the spine or back due to overstretching or overuse.
  • Fibromyalgia – a widespread musculoskeletal pain due to abnormal pain perception processing.
  • Sciatica pain – compression or irritation of the sciatic nerves.
  • Diabetic neuropathy – nerve damage that occurs when blood sugar levels are not well-controlled.

Woman using a wireless TENS machine on the lower back

How a TENS Unit for the Lower Back Works

A TENS unit for the lower back delivers electrical stimulation to the sensory nerves. The device sends small electrical pulses by placing the electrodes in the affected area. These pulses stimulate the spinal nerves and disrupt the pain signals going to the brain, resulting in lesser pain perception. This mechanism is known as pain gating.

Another method that TENS can use to relieve lower back pain is low-frequency stimulation. Mild soothing impulses help induce the production of endorphins. These natural chemicals inhibit the nerve cells and block pain messages. Additionally, TENS can increase blood flow, helping to reduce swelling and inflammation. As a result, it relieves muscle tension and soreness.

The device has controls to modify the electrical stimulation. Varying frequency and intensity levels help address different types of pain, severity, or conditions. This is because individuals may react differently to pain relief methods. Therefore, the ability to customise the programs helps find the most effective relief. Overall, a TENS machine interrupts pain signals and promotes the release of endorphins.

Benefits of Using the Device

Using a TENS machine offers numerous benefits for pain management. One of the advantages is its non-invasive nature. It does not require surgery or incisions that have inherent risks or discomfort. Furthermore, it helps relieve pain without medications. It is beneficial for individuals who want to avoid the potential side effects of medicines.

Another benefit of a TENS unit is its portability. The device is lightweight and easy to carry around. Thus, individuals can facilitate pain treatment while doing daily activities. Moreover, a wireless device is more discreet and does not hinder movement. Lastly, it is safe and does not have lasting side effects.

iTENS large wings and spare long strip wings for back pain

How to Operate a TENS Unit for the Lower Back

Operating a TENS unit for the lower back is easy. Before using the machine, attach the electrode pads to the unit. Ensure there are no open wires or loose connections. Then, place the pads on the treatment area and turn on the device. Adjust the settings based on the recommended settings.

It is best to start at the lowest intensity level and increase gradually. This helps prevent any discomfort during the session. Users may try different frequency settings to find the most effective relief. Alternatively, advanced devices have preset modes for specific body areas or health conditions. Individuals may choose a particular treatment from the option for efficient use.

Subsequently, set the treatment duration for 20 to 30 minutes. After use, turn off the device and remove the pads from the skin. The TENS machine can be used multiple times throughout the day as needed. However, it is vital not to exceed one hour in each session. In addition, allot at least 20 minutes before starting a new therapy. In this way, it avoids overstimulation, skin irritation, and muscle fatigue.

Pad Placement Guide for Effective Use

For optimal results, it is essential to apply the electrodes to the correct area of the back. The ideal position is placing the pads on either side of the spinal column. The pads should be one to two inches apart, covering a wide area.

In other cases where the pain is on one side only, position the pads on the side of the most painful spot. Moreover, it is vital to avoid putting the electrodes directly into the spine or joints. Individuals may alter the placement to target the right nerves. Likewise, avoid areas with broken skin, redness, or infected skin.


Using a TENS unit for the lower back is an effective way to manage back pain. It is a portable device that sends electrical pulses to stimulate the underlying nerves. This causes the body to block pain signals and produce endorphins. Therefore, it reduces inflammation, relaxes tense muscles, and reduces the overall perception of pain. Moreover, it is beneficial for a wide range of conditions, such as arthritis, sciatica, spinal disorders, and other neuropathic pain.

Operating a TENS machine is simple. Individuals need to identify the most painful area for effective pad placement. Then, adjust the settings according to the comfort level. The pulses should be strong but not uncomfortable. Additionally, follow the recommended treatment duration to avoid overstimulation. In summary, TENS therapy can help manage acute and chronic pain without the need for medication. For best results, individuals may consult a medical professional for usage guidance and safety precaution advice.

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