Electrical Stimulation and Low Back Pain

Due to increased work-related stress, incorrect ergonomics and bad posture, almost 50% of the entire human population has complained about back pain, and even more common, lower back pain. Pain levels range from acute to chronic and almost 85% of the US population alone complains of chronic lower back pain.

Usually, people below the age of 45 develop a case of back pain, either because of trauma or possibly due to injury. Chronic back pain is also the most likely cause of disability, especially for people over 65. Many articles, studies and websites have been dedicated to providing information regarding regular exercise and the benefits of keeping your back strong and healthy. There is more information than you could possibly read for a month regarding correct ergonomics while working in front of a computer screen, lifting techniques for people who have jobs where they are bending and lifting all day long, and the advantage you will gain by doing simple stretching techniques on a daily basis. It is always important to consult with your physician or health care provider before starting any exercise routine, especially if you are experiencing pain in your back. The last thing you want to do is make your back pain worse, especially lower back pain, when you started exercising to get some relief!

For over 30 years electrical stimulation has been used to treat lower back pain. Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation or TENS uses electrodes that are placed on the skin to transmit electrical impulses to the nerves.

A study conducted in 2008 showed that TENS did not reduce pain or improve function and mobility any more than not using it. Over the past ten years complaints of back pain, whether new, old, acute or chronic started to increase. In an effort to keep up with demand, the field of physical rehabilitation also had to grow, and with it, new studies were conducted by medical researchers to understand the best ways to treat back pain. All of the studies came to the same conclusion; TENS does not relieve pain, improve motion or increase activity for any patients tested with long-lasting lower back pain.

Some medical researchers insist that more studies are needed before TENS is completely disregarded as a valid source of relief for the person suffering from chronic back pain. Some medical professionals state that TEDS can be effective if used in conjunction with vibration. Tests also should be performed to see what would happen if a higher intensity of stimulation is used to treat the pain. The effectiveness of TEDS testing and research has come under fire as some medical researchers claim that not all testing and documentation had been performed in the exact same manner, therefore producing inconclusive results. Before physical therapists stop using TENS for patients with back pain, more information is needed. Researchers have already begun to look at how TENS is used and how they can find new and exciting ways to improve its success in treating back pain.

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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