Using a TENS unit for back pain relief


If you are one of the millions of chronic pain patients who suffers from a form of back pain, you may have heard about the TENS machine. A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit is a portable device that works as an electric nerve stimulator to help provide pain relief to several types of pain.

Understanding How TENS Works

Having a solid understanding of, and all of the information related to, the functionality of the TENS unit can help you to feel significantly more confident about this form of therapy. Many chronic pain patients are often hesitant to start new therapies in case they will agitate their existing pain. After all, the last thing that a patient who is already suffering from debilitating joint conditions or neck pain needs is to voluntarily bring more pain into their lives.


Rest assured that the electric current being administered during therapy is of such a low frequency that it is not likely to do more than offer the patient a mild sensation of tingling.

During the course of treatment, the device passes a low and controlled electrical current into the patient’s body through sticky electrodes that are strategically placed onto the patient’s skin. The electrode placement is a key part to ensuring that the electrical nerve stimulator is allowed to perform correctly; the sticky electrodes will either be placed directly onto the affected areas of your back or around the area in order to treat a large source of pain at once. For example, if your back pain is located in the lower part of your back, the electrodes may be placed in a circle surrounding your spinal column.

When a patient feels pain, the area that is affected sends rapid messages to the brain that alert it of the fact that there is pain. If these messages are slightly modified, without negative side-effects, the brain can be fooled into believing that the intensity of the pain has diminished or vanished in its entirety.

There are two forms of therapies offered by the TENS unit; the first is a higher frequency electrical stimulation that will modify the signals that the patient’s brain is receiving from the area. The second form of therapy is a low frequency stimulation that will help to aid the patient’s body in the process of releasing endorphins. Endorphins are natural painkillers that the human body produces – for a patient who is looking for natural pain treatment and long-term pain control this is an ideal method of avoiding potentially addictive and harmful prescription pain medications.

What The Studies Say

The studies related to the TENS machine offer a fair amount of conflicting information; however, pain patients should remember that every patient’s condition is unique. This uniqueness is also extended to the way in which their bodies react to treatment. Just as not every prescription medication will prove to be an effective treatment to reduce a patient’s back pain, the TENS machine may not be effective in treating select patients.

If you are receiving great pain relief benefit from your use of a TENS device, under the guidance of a medical professional, you should keep using the machine until you are able to find a resolution to the underlying conditions that are contributing to your back pain.

As a completely narcotic-free method of controlling pain, TENS therapy is an ideal option for patients who are either unable to or unwilling to take prescription pain medications.

Patients should keep in mind that the TENS therapy is not the ultimate cure for their back pain; they should steer clear of health professionals who proclaim that their pain will be forever vanquished using this device alone. While some forms of pain may be temporary, such as the pain that is a result of a recent surgery or muscle injury, pain that is the direct result of rheumatoid arthritis and other bone and joint conditions may return within two weeks following the therapy session. In patients who suffer from degenerative joint conditions, the electrical impulses provided by the device are to be used as a method of controlling the pain via the natural painkiller properties that TENS offers.

If you have any questions or concerns about the electrical nerve stimulation unit, you should be sure to consult with a medical professional who is familiar with your type of back pain. Pregnant women, and other patients with serious medical conditions, should always consult with the doctors who are monitoring their conditions in order to ensure that the effects of the TENS machine will not interfere with other forms of treatment that they are on. While no adverse side effects to the unborn child have been reported by TENS patients, it is always best to err on the side of caution where pregnant women are concerned.

Looking for a Tens Unit? Check out our Tens Unit Reviews.


About Andy

Andy writes for a number of health related sites but has always been fascinated by alternative medicine and home remedies. His deep interests in nature and the body's innate ability to heal itself (given the right condition) have lead him to a pivotal time in his life - and so, Holistic Home Fitness was born. While it's relatively new at the moment, Andy wants to build this site into a huge reference site for a more holistic approach to health and fitness.