Where to Place TENS Pads for Lower Back Pain

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Anyone who has had to endure the agony of back pain will attest that it can be debilitating. The chances are that you, yourself, have suffered from lower back pain at some point.

Around 75 percent of all adults will experience lower back at some point during their life. This makes it one of the most common medical ailments and takes up many doctor’s hours each year.

Fortunately, health practitioners and chiropractors can give many essential tips for taking care of a back when in pain these days. Sometimes though, advice just isn’t enough, and something else is required to remove the pain. This is where TENS pads may come into play. 

What are TENS pads?

TENS is the acronym given to transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS unit is a battery-powered device that is fitted with adhesive pads that are placed on the body.

Through electrodes fitted inside the pads, electrical impulses are passed on to stimulate the patient’s nervous system. The idea is that these electrical impulses then block the body’s ability to produce pain.

They have a number of uses but all are to do with pain relief. They can be used on patients who are suffering from period pains or are in labor. TENS units can also be of use for patients with certain conditions.

These include:

  • Arthritis
  • Sports injuries
  • Spinal injuries
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neuropathy
  • Endometriosis

And of course, they can also help with back pain. They are particularly useful for joints, necks, and backs. 

How do they help with pain?

As you have read above, they help to block pain signals. When the nervous system detects a problem, pain receptors react and send a signal to the spinal cord. This in turn goes to a special area of the brain.

From there, signals are spread to other regions of the brain where they get processed. Then the signal is returned to the nervous system back through the spinal cord. This signal may help to release endorphins to help with pain relief, or hormones to aid an injury. The signal may even increase the amount of pain the individual was feeling.

A TENS unit works to effectively stop the pain signals in the brain and spinal cord, and also to stimulate the release of endorphins. These chemicals are often called ‘feel-good’ as they are what is released during certain activities.

Endorphins are released while exercising while enjoying food, or during sex. They are also natural pain killers, and TENS units exploit this to the patient’s advantage. Many back experts such as Advanced Health Chiropractic advocate the use of TENS units these days, as a more natural remedy for pain. 

What causes lower back pain?

One of the reasons that lower back pain is so common, is due to there being numerous causes for it.

Living a sedentary lifestyle is one way to increase the likelihood of having lower back pain. Strong abdominal muscles are needed to support the spine, and being overweight can cause back problems too.

Certain occupations can cause the chances of back pain occurring to rise. Lifting and bending constantly can lead to lower back pain, especially if not carried out correctly.

Age can also be a factor as discs wear down, and perhaps surprisingly, so can mental health. It has been reported that depression can cause lower back pain in some patients. 

Where should TENS pads be placed to help with lower back pain?

To get the most out of the TENS pad’s ability to relieve pain, they need to be placed correctly.

When it comes to lower back pain, the pads should be placed on either side of the area of concern. For example, locate the point where you are experiencing pain, and place one pad on each side of that point.

Some TENS units will have more than two pads, and four is quite common. If this is the case, then place two above and to each side of the pain point, and the other two below, and to each side of that same area. You may need to adjust each pair to be closer to each other or move them slightly away to get the best results.

If you have other back pain then the deployment of the pads is slightly different. Upper back pain requires the pads to be placed on either side of the spine at the location of the pain.

Sciatica requires pads to be placed along the leg that is causing the issue. Generally speaking, TENS pads are placed in the region that is causing pain, however, there are areas where TENS pads should never be positioned. 

How else can you stop back pain?

Healthline reports that there are several ways you can stop back pain. Improving posture, and exercise, are two good ways to strengthen and reduce the chances of back pain.

Massage therapy can help with reducing lower back pain. Massages from a licensed practitioner can also help with faster healing from back problems.

Acupuncture is said to be effective for lower back pain. This provides a useful option for anyone interested in alternative medicine. Then, of course, there are painkillers. When nothing else works, painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to help with chronic back pain. Sometimes valium or other sedatives may be administered if back muscles are going into spasm. 

Where should TENS pads never be placed?

TENS pads should never be placed on the face, the neck (except the very lower neck), the throat, the head, or the spine. They shouldn’t be placed on shoulder bones, wounds, cancerous lesions, infected areas, or varicose veins.

One very important thing to know about TENS pads is that they should never be placed on both sides of the chest, or the chest and upper back, at the same time. 

Are TENS pads safe to use?

Generally, TENS units are very safe to use. They are in common usage today, and in many cases mean patients can avoid the use of potentially harmful or addictive painkillers.

As with many medical treatments, however, some side effects can happen from time to time. MedicineNet reports that the possible side effects can include allergic reactions to the pads, and muscle spasms.

In some cases, patients have reported headaches, nausea, irritated and red skin, and dizziness. In much rarer cases, there have been reports of burning on the areas that the pads are attached to.

Most patients, though, simply report that the pads and electrodes feel strange at first. The normal reaction is that there is a tingly feeling, but this quickly fades away. 


Massages, therapy, and painkillers can all help relieve back pain. Exercises, and certain lifestyle changes, can help to lower the chances of suffering from lower back pain in the future. Taking time to perfect your posture can help with your back pain too.

However, many people are finding that alternative treatments such as TENS units are very helpful. One of the impressive things about TENS units is that they can be used in different areas. Arthritis sufferers can gain pain relief from these devices, as well as someone recovering from a sports injury.

For many people though, it is the lower back pain they have that is most concerning. Speaking to your chiropractor might mean you can get the chance to relieve your back pain through one of these devices.




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