There are a variety of treatment practices that have had some success but are not as commonly used to deal with back pain. One of these is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, also known as TENS. TENS uses an electrical current of relatively low voltage to relieve pain. This is a battery-powered device, which is not much bigger than a Walkman, and is usually used by a trained physiotherapist. They gently place the electrodes on the spot where their patient is having the pain and allow the current to be absorbed into the painful area. This device does not work for everyone but it will often affect the degree of pain the patient is experiencing.
Some health care providers believe that what happens is the electrical current messes up the pain signals and so the body doesn’t think it should hurt there anymore. They feel the nerves send confused messages to the brain because of the signal getting messed up and so the brain no longer sends pain messages back down to the area in the back that hurts. Others think that it stimulates production of the body’s natural painkillers, endorphins, and so lessens the pain in this way. There is no scientific proof either way why this device works for some and not others.
TENS can send different amounts of current based on how it is set. That’s why despite the fact that you can purchase one of them for yourself it really doesn’t seem to be that good an idea. A trained physiotherapist knows what the right settings should be and so they are careful with their treatments, a layperson could misuse the TENS and try to get faster pain relief. If a layperson were to buy one there would be an explanation of the proper use but still, without supervision it could be misused by someone in a lot of pain.
Some supporters of the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation device believe that it works well for some people in relieving lower back pain. Even though it appears to have no affect for some they feel that those who it works for get enough benefit that it is a worthwhile device. Those who do not like the device feel that it has not yet been proven beneficial and therefore is not worth using. Research continues to try to determine the benefits for back pain sufferers of using TENS. Although it is obvious that more studies are necessary there still is a lot of evidence that if you have lower back pain this device is worth giving a try.
As this is considered an alternative therapy your health care provider will advise you to use the medical treatment suggested first and to only use the TENS device as additional treatment. Back pain can be very uncomfortable and if your health care provider and your physiotherapist are advising an exercise program to help you cope with it and alleviate the pain do not stop that to use your TENS device only.