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TENS Machine and Back Pain

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) is a well known way of controlling pain. It works by applying electrodes to the body at specific points through which electrical impulses are delivered. These impulses block the pain messages sent to the brain by increasing the making of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which are quicker in spreading than pain messages.

This device is extremely recommended where chronic pain conditions are present, mainly of the lower back when sciatica, arthritis, lumbago and strains and sprains have occurred. They are safe for long-term use, with no side-effects and can help lower or remove the need for analgesic medications.


Always seek advice from your midwife before using a device if pregnant, ask your midwife or GP for suggested uses of a TENS machine. How effective they are varies from person to person, depending on their sensitivity to pain and their expected outcomes.

Devices either come with three or four electrodes, and where the electrodes are placed can be changed between different users. You may need to experiment a little with the electrodes by trying them in different areas before a suitable result is gained.

It takes approximately one hour of use before the maximum benefit is experienced, a point which should be considered if you’re thinking about using it before trying to sleep. The use of a TENS machine is not recommended when the person has a pacemaker fitted and you should seek advice if epilepsy has been diagnosed.

You should NEVER apply the electrode pads to areas where there is broken skin or where there is a rash. The adhesive gel on the pads may aggravate symptoms. TENS machines should not be used where there is water present for obvious safety reasons.

Where Can a TENS Machine be Bought?

Before purchasing a TENS machine, it is recommended that a machine is first hired to establish whether this therapy is beneficial to the sufferer. Your GP, Orthopaedic Specialist, Physiotherapist or pain team should be able to tell you where these machines can be hired from. Many NHS Trusts rent them out to users at a low cost, sometimes there is no charge, depending on circumstances.

There are many retailers that sell TENS machines

The price can also reflect the size and the controls on the machine. If the user is intending on being extremely active whilst using the device, a small portable machine will be more beneficial. Some machines come with buttons, others with dials; it is the persons own choice as to which they prefer and can control most easily.

When you go to purchase a machine, take a letter from your GP recommending a device is purchased for you as some retailers offer discounts to NHS patients.
The use of TENS machines have been suggested by healthcare professionals for many years. If the user sticks to it and tries changing the place of the electrodes, a person can benefit greatly by using this equipment.

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