TENS for severe lower back pain: Hi guys. I got... - Pain Concern

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TENS for severe lower back pain


Hi guys. I got a TEN's machine last week as I needed more than my pills. I see why TEN's can be helpful. My problem is my pain is so horrible that I need to turn it up so high it starts to sting on my back. I only tend to use the device when I have extra pain. My pain meds cover me but only for mild walking and staying in bed!

If I tidy up or stand for too long the pain is horrible. Last week I tried to buy some new jeans and after trying on just two pairs, I had to take pain relief in the store. It got so bad I left with nothing. My world is getting smaller after 3 years of this. Any TENS machine tips? Sending you all positive vibes!

21 Replies

Using a TENS is trial and error. Maybe try low and let your natural endorphins kick in?

This may explain difference between high and low...

On a high pulse rate of 90-130 Hz (the normal method of use), the electrical impulses generated by the TENS machine interfere with and block pain messages sent to the brain. This is due to the gate control theory of pain. This proposes that there is a gate mechanism in the brain and spinal cord nerves (the central nervous system). When the gate is open, pain messages get through to the brain and we feel pain. When the gate is closed, these pain messages are blocked and we do not feel pain. TENS machines are thought to stimulate certain non-pain-carrying nerves and close the gate. In effect, the brain is busy dealing with the messages it receives quickly from the TENS machine, rather than the slower (more painful) pain signals that the body is receiving from elsewhere. It explains why, if you injure yourself, rubbing that area can temporarily reduce the pain.

When the machine is set on a low pulse rate (2-5 Hz) it stimulates the body to make its own pain-easing chemicals called endorphins. These act a bit like morphine to block pain


Hidden in reply to Bananas5

Hey, thanks for that info 😎 I have tried all settings. For it's too low I can just feel my pain. I have to turn it up high enough to block out the constant ache. I'm not sure

how much more I can take. With my bipolar moods, the down feeling you can get with pain is just making it worse. Wishing you well in the sun.

Hidden in reply to Hidden

I added some gel and it helped 😎

Hi Jake my husband had a tens machine years ago and would wear it all the time but I think it gave more comfort than pain relief x

Hidden in reply to Sallyderek

Yeah. I think that's the case. When nothing dowse works it's very helpful. I had to go out to get meds and I fit a cab but still had to wear this! I had taken all my meds (and some) and was still in severe pain. My worst day. After 3 years, I'm distressed by it. Wishing you well.

Yorkie27 in reply to Hidden

Hi Jake please be careful with your tens, I too had to turn it up high to get any relief but ended up with a skin complaint at the site of the electrodes, this was around 25 years ago and I don't know if anything has changed but it was horrendous, I tried different types of pads including some made of guar gum but nothing helped and I had to stop using the tens machine at all. I go to the pain clinic and recently had denervation but it hasn't helped so I'm waiting to see the consultant again for any other options. I wish you the best of luck with your pain and really hope you find something that helps. Kind regards Jackie

Hidden in reply to Yorkie27

Thanks Jackie. So far it's been fine. Take care JJ.

I'm very sorry to hear that. Have you asked whether the pain team could visit your house ?

May I ask if you've heard of a drug called tapentadol ? You quite rightly recognise that tramadol has an SSRI effect. SNRI's are usually better for pain but obviously nobody would want to upset your mental health.

Anyway I wish you the best, and hope the horrific pain can be controlled.

deejames in reply to painforlife

I was on Tapentadol for a year,very successfully. Pain managed better and mood much improved. It's worth investigating.

I have almost stopped them now as CBD products have made a huge difference to my pain.


Hidden in reply to painforlife

I'm going to ask but fear the SNR can make me manic. Even regular SSRI's can spin my mood right up and I only take theming I'm in a death depression. I'll still ask anyway. Thank you 😀

Hi I use the tens machine majority of the time and it is not just the settings it is where you place the pads and using the lead with a red connector opposite a black connector. The red connector sends out a more powerful signal to the black one. I was one of the first people to trial the tens machine in the UK, via a physio program. The first thing that I was told was that these connectors should form an x with the middle of the x being where the greatest pain was and the red one should be opposite the black one. I don't know if that's the case now but it's what I have always gone by. Hope that helps

Hidden in reply to Loramay

Hi. The books and websites don't mention this anymore but maybe that's how things have changed. This old way does sound more complicated to set up each time. I use a butterfly pad. It's in that shape and just sticks right on the lower back. Much easier for me. Be well 😎


Good luck with the tens machine and I hope you got some good advice from the others who replied to your post.

Hidden in reply to NanaFifi

Thanks. It's ok.

I have been in increasingly severe lower back pain for well over ten years. I lost my job a couple years ago, and right now I'm on morphine, but they will soon end that as I changed my health care provider and the new chronic pain unit says morphine is "not indicated" for chronic pain.

However, TOMORROW I am getting a nerve ablation procedure on my lower back to burn the nerves to smithereens. They do grow back, but I hope to get some temporary relief. I have grade one spondy, but I'm not sure that would cause this much pain. I wake up in the morning in sheer intense agony. I bought a manhole cover hook so I could lie across the steel bar on the floor and just roll back and forth on it. I have tried everything I can think of, chiropractic, gone to a neurologist, spent tens of thousands seeking an answer. I feel for everyone who suffers, because only fellow sufferers know how frighteningly intense back pain is. I would suggest everyone inquire about nerve ablation and pursue it even if the diagnostic injection doesn't relieve all your pain. As you know, your pain can travel long distances in your back as other muscle groups get involved sympathetically.

Hidden in reply to fazsha

Wow....how did it go?


Very helpful!

I only use my tens at night in bed as that is when my pain is at its worse. I find you can wet the pads and get better results. You can wash the pads in water to get more life out of them. I have had a few different machines and the med fit 9v is by far the best but you will need rechargeable battery's. I tend to move the pads an inch up or down after half an hour. Not only do they fight pain but they have made my lower back a lot stronger and after 3 years I can do a lot more.

Hidden in reply to johnnygeetar

That's great news! So the pads actually built up the area in strength too? I use a bit of gel and it helps stop the sting. It isn't ever going to cover what Oxycontins do but it's a distraction when I'm at my worst. Wishing you well.

Hi Jake, I use a tens machine I don't think it's well know but if you feel a pins and needles type PAIN from the tens then it is a allergy and if you swap from the ordinary electrodes to the sensitive hypoallergenic pads then that doesn't happen with them. I got my first set from the NHS and then I ordered some online, I got the sensation you discribe. Now I already knew I had sensitive skin and have an allergy to adhesive but these I bought were supposed to be for sensitive skin and I didn't get the usual skin reactions from them only the pins and needles electric shock pains, when looked for alternative sensitive pads I came across an artical mentioning this sensation and redness as an allergic reaction. The ones I'm looking at now are blue gel and are for sensitive skin. It might be worth swapping and seeing if that stops. I also find when my pain is at its highest, ridiculous tear your hair out I use the continous setting first then I swap to the modulating because the modulating keeps my body guess and it helps more at distracting the pain. Hope you get some where with your tens. The one I uses is a TPN machine and it's very good, with sensitive pads.

Hidden in reply to Vick-caz

Hi. Thanks form your interesting post. I bought another tens, thinking it would have more benefits. It has more modes but less control over pulse. Anyway, got loads of electrodes with it and it's good to have back up.

My stinging was from not using gel. You explain the pain very well and I know you get it! It feel for you. That's the pain that you just can't turn off. So awful. I'm stable on my meds now. I think my flare up was caused by tidying my messy kitchen in one go! However, I'm a little low on my meds and I'll need to explain why I'm running out....again to DR. I shall try jean shopping again next week. Wishing you the best. 😎

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