Lower back pain is a common problem that many men experience. There are many different ways to treat lower back pain, including using a tens unit. A tens unit is a device that sends electrical impulses to the muscles, which can help relieve pain. In this blog post, we will discuss how to use a tens unit for lower back pain relief. We will also provide tips on how to get the most out of your tens unit.
TENS Therapy has been around since the 1970s and the first patient-wearable mobile unit was patented in 1974 for the use of testing chronic pain in patients but ultimately the therapeutic results showed that the TENS unit itself was leading to actual pain relief itself. Over the decades since then, this piece of technology has gotten smaller, cheaper, and more accessible to the point where today, you can get a good quality TENS device for well under $50.
In fact, fitness and health brand, AVCOO sent us two different units to test out that offer both TENS as well as EMS therapy and we were impressed by how small these units have become.
For instance, just a few years ago TENS machines were large and bulky but they have a pocket-sized, Ultra-Compact TENS that weighs only 0.09 pounds and is about the size of a small TV remote. However, it is still packed with power including 30 different modes, 30 levels of intensity, and you can attach 12 electrode pads. Plus, it has enough battery power to last for up to 30 hours on a full charge. This makes it the perfect device to bring along with you on a trip if you know you will be doing things that might lead to lower back pain, but want to avoid using pain relief drugs.
They also have a larger, more powerful device with a large LCD screen that makes it easier to use but a bit less travel friendly. However, this larger unit offers 36 different modes and lasts for up to 40 hours.
Both units can charge quickly via power bank, laptop, or other sources using a USB-C cable.
What Exactly Is A TENS Unit And How Does It Work?
A TENS unit is a battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to the muscles through electrodes that are placed on the skin. The electrical impulses help to reduce pain by blocking the pain signals that are sent to the brain. TENS units can be used for various types of pain, including lower back pain but also arthritis, bursitis, and many other sports injuries as well. Additionally, there are reports that in addition to simply blocking pain signals, the therapy may also help reduce inflammation and lead to long-lasting relief as well, allowing for more rapid muscle recovery.
The name TENS itself is an acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.
When using a TENS unit for lower back pain relief, it is important to place the electrodes on the area of your lower back where you are experiencing pain. You may need to experiment with different electrode placements in order to find the position that provides the most relief. It is also important to start with a low-intensity setting and gradually increase the intensity as needed.
Understanding TENS vs EMS Therapy
There are two distinctly different types of therapy offered by sending mild electrical signals to muscles and they offer different types of benefits when it comes to muscle recovery and pain relief. They are sometimes collectively referred to as electrical stimulation or e-stim devices.
As mentioned above, a TENS machine offers relief by sending mild electrical pulses that block pain signals produced by nerves from reaching the brain where they are interpreted as discomfort.
On the other hand, an EMS machine is used in physical therapy and fitness environments to contract muscle fibers in a pulsating therapy to help improve circulation that helps with recovery as well as potentially leading to improved strength by forcing weakened muscles to flex, and reducing muscle atrophy. This type of therapy can also be used to help alleviate back pain caused by muscle spasms.
Machines that are designed for EMS therapy often offer stronger electrical pulses and it is important that you avoid applying these higher power signals when using your device for TENS therapy instead of EMS.
Both of the devices we received from VACOO support TENS as well as EMS modes and both types of therapy can be valuable for relieving lower back pain. For instance, you can use TENS settings to alleviate pain and EMS in the painful area to send out small electrical impulses that may help relieve muscle spasms.
Why TENS Therapy Is Better Than Taking Drugs For Pain Relief
TENS therapy offers several advantages over traditional pain relief drugs, including the fact that it is non-invasive, has no side effects, and is drug-free. Additionally, TENS units are relatively inexpensive and can be used as needed for pain relief.
In contrast, pain relief drugs come with several potential side effects, including drowsiness, gastrointestinal problems, and addiction. Pain relief drugs also only offer temporary relief from pain and do not address the underlying cause of the pain.
However, just like with any sort of therapy, rarely is there a either-or situation and the same is true here as well. For instance, pain relief drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen work by reducing inflammation instead of simply blocking pain signals to the brain.
Unfortunately, while there is significant research that suggests TENS electrotherapy can be an effective treatment for lower back pain, more research is needed to determine why some people seem unaffected by it. However, most people do show positive results both for pain management as well as reduction of inflammation from various over-the-counter drugs that are available.
As with any therapy, it is essential that you seek advice from a trusted medical practitioner. If your primary care physician is unfamiliar with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation techniques though, you may want to consult a physical therapist instead before starting a program to help relieve muscle pain. This is true whether you are trying to relieve upper back pain, lower back pain, neck pain, or any other area of your body that hurts.
Pain Relief Can Be The First Step Towards Recovery
If you're dealing with chronic back pain, it can be tough to imagine anything other than finding relief. And while pain relief is definitely an important part of the equation, it's not the only thing you should be striving for. Unfortunately, without relief, nothing else may be possible. In situations like this, a TENS machine is a good way to help relieve chronic pain - even if it is only short term pain relief.
Recovery from chronic back pain is a process that requires time, patience, and often a multifaceted approach. In addition to finding pain relief, you'll also need to focus on rebuilding strength and flexibility in your back muscles, as well as improving your posture and learning proper lifting techniques.
But don't get discouraged—even small improvements can make a big difference in how you feel. So if you're ready to start working towards recovery, here are a few things you can do:
- Start by gradually adding some basic back exercises to your daily routine.
- Pay attention to your posture and make an effort to stand up straight.
- When lifting heavy objects, use proper form and lift with your legs instead of your back.
- Make sure you're getting enough rest and taking breaks throughout the day to give your back a chance to recover.
All of these things can help reduce the amount of stress on your back and lead to less pain in the long run. And while there's no magic cure for chronic back pain, making even small progress can be a huge step in the right direction.
Proper Use Of A TENS Unit For Lower Back Pain Relief
If you are experiencing lower back pain, there are a few things you can do to find relief using a TENS unit. First, it is important to place the electrodes on the area of your lower back where you are experiencing pain. You may need to experiment with different electrode placements to find the position that provides the most relief. It is also important to start with a low-intensity setting and gradually increase the intensity as needed.
Another tip for using a TENS unit for lower back pain relief is to use it in conjunction with other treatments, such as heat, ice therapy using cold packs, massage, or stretching. By combining multiple types of treatment, you will be able to find the most relief from your pain.
Applying The Electrode Pads For Lower Back Pain Relief
Each type of application will require slightly different tens pad placement and it is advisable to seek a professional's help for your first time. However, most people can do this at home very easily. For lower back pain, use four of these sticky pads called electrodes that come with most tens units.
These TENS pads should be placed in channel pairs that cross. For instance, if you use two different channels - place electrodes for channel one and channel two on top, spanning different sides of your lower back. Then follow by placing electrodes for channel two and channel one to create the bottom of the box across the lower area of the affected area.
Each channel should have two electrodes attached to the skin so that they can stimulate the nerves in the affected area.
How Often Should You Do TENS Therapy?
You can use a TENS machine as often as you'd like but typical TENS therapy sessions last no longer than 30-60 minutes and for four hours per day.
Tips To Use A TENS Machine Safely
To use a TENS machine safely, you should apply the pads directly to the affected muscle areas using the sticky pads but avoid any areas of broken skin. Additionally, avoid applying those pads anywhere above the neckline and absolutely avoid using them on your face or head since this can cause serious injury.
Especially if you are new to using TENS machines, you should avoid them while being affected by any other form of pain relief, drugs, or alcohol.
Additionally, while you may have seen TikTok and other videos where tens machines (more correctly EMS machines) are applied to genitals as part of sex play, this practice of erotic electrostimulation can be safe with proper instruction but can cause serious injury as well as uncontrolled responses from your bladder or bowels if done improperly.
Finally, you should always consult the instruction manual for your tens machines as tens units are all unique. As such, you should absolutely start with the lowest setting and short pulse length as well as pulse rate until you are familiar with the tingling sensation that you will feel as it provides muscle stimulation.
Is It Better To Do TENS Therapy At Home Or With A Trained Therapist?
The use of a TENS machine should not be done casually. This is still a serious piece of medical equipment, even though they are very easy to get and costs almost nothing.
TENS units can cause a significant amount of pain as well as create muscle strains if not used properly and at the very least you should consult a trained physical therapist before starting any treatment. Not only will this person be able to help review the machine and pads that you are using but also show you how to use the TENS machine properly so that it creates the proper amount of electrical sensation to help relieve the pain area you are focused on.
However, with a few exceptions, such as those that may have pain that limits their movement or disabilities that restrict their ability to place electrodes properly, TENS therapy can be done easily at home.
A TENS Unit Isn't Magic But It Can Help Lower Back Pain!
There is no magic silver bullet for lower back pain but using a TENS machine can provide significant lower back pain relief by stimulating the muscles in the area to help them relax.
Remember to always use your TENS machine as directed, start with the lowest setting, use short duration sessions, and never place pads on or near broken skin, above the neck or directly on the spinal cord. If you have any questions about how to properly use your tens unit, please consult a trained physical therapist. With proper care, you can find significant lower back pain relief from your tens unit!