Can a TENS Unit help with herniated discs?

TENS Unit help with herniated discsCan a TENS Unit help with herniated discs? The answer is yes. A TENS Unit or (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) is a non-invasive, safe and drug-free method for treating herniated disc pain.

TENS Unit can relieve the pain caused due to the herniated disc.

The debilitating and radiating shooting pains that patients often experience.

It’s a non-addictive painkiller alternative that is helpful in alleviating the discomfort and herniated disc pain.

How to use the TENS Unit for herniated disc relief?

Follow these steps for herniated disc pain relief.

  1. Check where the pain is radiating from and place the electrode pad in a square pattern along your spine;
  2. Ensuring the setting is at the minimum level, turn on the TENS Unit. Adjust the frequency and the pulse length. Wait for some time (few seconds) and slowly readjust or increase the setting until you find relief from the slip disc pain and you feel comfortable with the TENS Unit. (I recommend checking the ‘TENS Safety Usage Guide’ for proper operation of the Unit);
  3. In order to get maximum relief to your back pain using TENS Unit, you will need to know the best position to place the electrodes. Apply the electrodes directly to the affected area. Place the TENS Unit pad on the side which is having the pain for effective results;
  4. It is highly advised using two electrodes (with single channel) or four electrode pads (with double channels). Avoid using six or more electrode pads;
  5. Repeat as necessary, using the TENS machine for about thirty minutes at a time.

Setting the optimal mode for a TENS Unit machine

A TENS Unit machine has 3 basic mode settings:

  • Normal setting – also termed as Constant Stimulation. This setting is helpful in case of acute herniated disc pain.
  • Modulation setting – In this mode, the frequency shows variations between different settings which alleviates nerve adaptation. The mode is useful for chronic herniated disc pain.
  • Burst setting– In this setting, the TENS Unit sends powerful bursts. These bursts do not hurt as they are pain relieving and short. This setting is beneficial in case of chronic pain management.

Setting the Pulse Rate (Frequency)

Frequency at which an individual gets relief varies from one person to another.
Different frequencies recommended for different herniated disc pains are;

  • 80 – 120 Hz (frequency is measured in Hertz) – This frequency setting is useful for acute herniated disc pain
  • 2 – 10 Hz – Useful in case of chronic herniated disc pain as this pulse rate stimulates the release of natural analgesic called endorphin
  • 35 – 50 Hz – This frequency is used for stimulation of muscles for relation and strengthening
    Setting the Pulse Width

The Pulse Width on the machine usually ranges from 1 – 250uS. The Pulse Width in a TENS Unit are the ON periods of the electrical current. Pain relief starts occurring from low to mid time periods.

The following Pulse Width setting for herniated disc pain relief is recommended:

  • 175 – 200uS

The power of the TENS Unit device can be strengthened by increasing the pulse width.

What Time Duration Should You Use a TENS Machine for relieving herniated disc pain?

The following time periods for different pains are recommended;

  • For acute herniated disc pain – 20 to 60 minutes up to 4 times every day
  • For chronic herniated disc pain – 20 to 30 minutes up to 5 times every week

Safety precautions

NEVER place the electrodes on the front side, on your chest;
Place the first two electrode pads around the sides of your arms, approximately 5 to 6 inches apart. Make sure the electrode pads never touch each other. Further spread the other two electrode pads at the same distance, closer to the buttocks (as shown in the picture). Position of the electrodes should be around the vertices of a square;

As discussed earlier, it is advisable to tune the settings to the lowest mode, gradually increasing it to the optimal level. If you are keen to purchase TENS Unit, I strongly advocate checking out iReliev TENS Unit user guide.
TENS Unit safety tips
1. Before operating the TENS Unit on the back, please go through the safety tips in order to avoid any accidents.
2. Do not place electrodes too close to each other or in any inappropriate positions;
3. Switch off the TENS Unit, prior to attaching the electrodes;
4. Read ‘How to use the TENS Unit Machine for herniated disc relief’ section above to ensure that the electrodes are placed in the right position;
5. Make sure the electrodes are placed at a safe distance from each other;
6. Use the TENS Unit for no more than 30 minutes continuously. Over using of the Unit can cause issues.

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