TENS Therapy For Back Pain

TENS PlacementIt should come as no surprise that TENS therapy for back pain will work for some and not for others even with the same condition.  It’s just yet another option for us to experiment with and see how we feel.  Like most alternative treatments for our struggle, there is not conclusive evidence that TENS works or doesn’t work.

I do have a Maxtens 2000 myself and it does provide relief, for me anyway.  I must admit that I do not use it as frequently as I should.  It’s not that it hurts or is difficult to use at all, I just don’t really care for the tingling sensation.  My Mom, on he other hand, thinks it feels really good when she borrows it for her knees.  Go figure!

How TENS Units Work…

TENS is short for transcutaneous (through the skin) electrical nerve stimulation. The generally small and portable unit delivers electrical currents to the nerves in an effort to reduce pain.  Although you can stimulate the nerves anywhere on your body, most people place the electrodes (“sticky” pads) on or adjacent to the painful area and then select from an adjustable stimulation frequency.  The units can be used for short or long periods of time and even when you’re on the go.

How TENS May Help…

By stimulating the nerves in the spinal cord with the electrical impulses, the unit may block pain signals (it’s a mind trick) when using a high frequency and entice the body to produce endorphins (our natural painkiller) when using a low frequency.  Since research on the effectiveness of TENS is generally inconclusive, it is typically recommended to be used in conjunction with other solutions.

Conditions That May Benefit From TENS…

Musculoskeletal pain, acute or chronic back pain, arthritis in the knee joints or even for beginning labor pain relief are the most common uses.  But TENS may also used, although much less commonly, to treat menstrual pain, migraines and sports injuries.  Fatigue and insomnia are among the very rare uses.

Starting TENS Therapy…

It’s best to experiment for several days with the unit at first.  Of course, start off on a low frequency and gradually increase the stimulation.  You should feel a strong tingling sensation but you should not feel uncomfortable or experience an increase in pain.  If the tingling tapers off after a few minutes, turn up the frequency slightly but leave it at that level for the remainder of your treatment.  Many people also prefer to have a back care professional provide instructions on where to place the electrodes.

Although TENS Is Considered Safe For Most People, Do Not Use…

Without first checking with a medical specialist, while sleeping, in the shower or tub, while driving,  during hot/cold therapy treatments, if a burn or rash develops and on skin that has open sores or is irritated.  Persons who have epilepsy, some heart conditions, a pacemaker or are pregnant but not in labor should NEVER use a TENS machine.

After all is said and done, TENS therapy is considered an alternative treatment with no notable side-effects and many people do find it helpful.  One downside is that some of the units (but there are many choices on the market – search for TENS Units) can be pricey although my insurance covered mine.  Have you tried TENS treatments?  Please drop in any comments or questions.

Good Day,


Image Credit: By Wisser68 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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