Your nerves play an important role in your body, carrying the electrical impulses that let you move and feel. Without responsive nerves, you wouldn’t know how good the sun feels on a chilly day or how nice it can be to climb into a soft bed.
But your nerves aren’t always sending positive sensations to your brain. They also send pain signals. In some ways, that’s helpful. Your body telling your brain that something is hot or sharp helps you limit your exposure, keeping yourself safe.
But what happens when you don’t have the option to move away from the painful thing? If you’re dealing with chronic low back pain or sciatic pain, you know the frustration of nerves constantly sending pain signals.
Fortunately, you might have a convenient way to interrupt those signals, bringing yourself relief. It’s called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). And an at-home TENS unit could be the solution to your discomfort.
TENS unit 101
A TENS unit sends safe, low-voltage electrical currents into targeted parts of your body. It comes with sticky pads that you can place on your body to get the relief right where you need it (e.g., on your low back).
The TENS unit works for back pain or sciatic pain in two ways. First, it helps to interrupt the pain signals your nerves are trying to send to your brain. Secondly, it encourages your body to release endorphins.
Endorphins are hormones that have what medical experts call an analgesic effect. That means they ease pain. In fact, medical experts call endorphins your body’s natural painkillers.
If you want to get a quick look at how TENS works in your body, check out this one-minute video.
TENS for back pain
Many studies have evaluated the effectiveness of a TENS unit for chronic back pain. One meta-analysis of 13 of those studies found that “treatment of chronic low back pain with TENS demonstrated significant pain reduction.”
What’s more, it concluded that applying a TENS unit could help people use less pain medication. In other words, using TENS for back pain could save you from the side effects and potential addictiveness of trying to moderate your back pain with pharmaceuticals.
TENS for sciatic pain
TENS therapy is particularly helpful for people with sciatic pain because you can place the pads wherever you feel discomfort. In some people, the pinching of the sciatic nerve causes pain in the low back. For others, the pain radiates down one or both legs. With TENS, you get a way to apply targeted pain relief right wherever you need it.
In fact, studies show that using a TENS unit can even be helpful if you’ve unsuccessfully tried other treatments for sciatic pain.
Ultimately, the nerve stimulation a TENS unit delivers gives you a medication-free, localized way to address pain right at the source. So whether you’re living with chronic back pain, sciatica, or another uncomfortable condition, it’s worth trying it for yourself. To explore different types of TENS units and find which is right for you, start here.