• Fri, Jan 1 2010

TENS Not Recommended for Chronic Back Pain

Anyone who has experienced chronic lower back pain knows that there are many treatments to try, but it may be difficult to find one that works for your specific problem.

Human backTranscutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) is technique that many doctors and physiotherapists have been using to treat pain, including lower back pain. It’s a painless procedure that uses electrical currents to try to interrupt the pain signals from reaching the brain.

Electrodes from the TENS machine are placed around or on the painful area and the machine is then turned on. Electrical currents are sent through the electrodes and into the body tissue. The currents don’t cause any pain, but some people do feel a bit uncomfortable.

Now, new guidelines, published at the end of December 2009 in the journal Neurology say that TENS is not suitable for treating chronic lower back pain – that is pain that has lasted three months or longer. The researchers caution that this is not pertinent to acute back pain, new pain.

Many studies have looked at the effectiveness of TENS and lower back pain, and according to this article, the only pain that can definitively be helped by TENS is diabetic neuropathy, pain in the nerve endings that develops as a result of progressing diabetes.

“The strongest evidence showed that there is no benefit for people using TENS for chronic low-back pain,” said guideline author Richard M. Dubinsky, MD, MPH, of Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “Doctors should use clinical judgment regarding TENS use for chronic low-back pain. People who are currently using TENS for their low-back pain should discuss these findings with their doctors.”

Have you used TENS for pain management?

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Image: iStock.com

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  • http://www.azchiropracticandrehab.com/ April

    An acute back pain should never be treated lightly. For me, a good massage helps to rub off the muscle pains that we usually feel at the end of the day.Great blog!!!

  • Marijke Durning, RN

    Thanks April. I agree, acute back pain is something to be taken seriously. However, chronic pain – addressed in this post – should also be taken seriously as it can severely affect someone’s quality of life.