lower back TENS

Here we go again. Another tale of the whack that haunts my back. Translation? My back and I have not been getting along lately and I’ve suffered as a result.

Here’s the story: I recently had a massage that my back didn’t like. I know this because, shortly following said massage, my hip locked down and my lower back pulled out of line. Literally. I can’t tell you when I last glanced in the mirror at my off-kilter torso, but that’s the view I had this past Saturday. What I felt was sharp and occasionally shooting pain. I had trouble standing, sitting, and lying down comfortably. Now, don’t run from any and all massage therapists yet! Massage can be an excellent addition to any back-pain reducing regimen and my recent results don’t represent my usual outcome. Unfortunately some massage therapists, and thus some massages, are not qualified or intended to address complex forms of pain. For better and worse, you usually find this out after the fact.

After some major pain-“pillage” (e.g. both pain and muscle relaxant pills) I pulled out one of my “I’m out of whack” standbys: my TENS unit. (TENS stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation; example device pictured below) I hooked up for two, back-to-back 30 minute sessions and that combined with said “pillage” did the trick. Temporarily. More TENS, more stretching, and a few more pills later I was relatively pain-free. Throw in some workouts that really warmed me up for deep stretching and recovery and today, one week later, I’m feeling back to normal. Well, as normal as we (me and my back) get. 😉

tens 7000

Less story and more specifics, the TENS unit can be a great way to relieve pain and its uses are not limited to the back (see pad placement pic below; no, that’s not me). Simplistically put, it “electrically” stimulates muscles/nerves and thus interrupts and reduces pain signals that travel to the brain. The result is very often pain relief  My TENS unit is a portable, battery operated one that includes two sets of two wires and two sets of two pads. Without getting into the nitty-gritties, I place the pads in a manner that “surrounds” the pain (e.g. lower back pain could be addressed by placing two pads on muscle–NOT NERVE–fibers above the pain and two pads on muscle fibers below the pain), then I hook up one each respective pair of wires to each respective pair of pads. (I realize this may be confusing, but bear with me! You and your pain will very likely thank me!!)

tens placement

I’m intentionally oversimplifying my descriptions because it’s important for your to learn about TENS devices for yourself. There are many important things to know and I don’t want to risk misinforming you by trying to explain what I only have a basic understanding of. What I can tell you is that my TENS unit is a lifesaver. By interrupting pain and inevitably relaxing my muscles, I am able to recover much more quickly from serious bouts of pain. Pain that used to much more negatively and continually impact my well-being and my life. The TENS unit is not a cure by any means, but it is an excellent tool in my back-pain chest. Maybe it can be for you as well?

I may be preaching to the converted as many know about this device. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear how it’s impacted your life. For those who are unfamiliar with the TENS unit–who experience pain on a regular basis–my advice is to Google here, there, and everywhere to increase your understanding of this device. There are many websites and videos dedicated to it’s safe and pain-appropriate uses. Be mindful of who and what you listen to or watch. Be even more mindful of who and what you believe. Place your health and safety first.

When it comes to buying, if that’s what you decide to do, know that these devices are available in many places at many prices. I recommend using Amazon reviews to learn about the TENS devices generally and specifically, even if that’s not where you decide to purchase. My unit cost $35-ish dollars, I’ve had it for years, and I think it’s an excellent one. That said, I learned a great deal about TENS units and safely using them, then I followed up by reading users’ reviews of specific units before making my purchase. I’m happy to say I’ve never regretted it.

Here are a couple of links to get you started:




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