Along with massage and spinal manipulation, one of the techniques your chiropractor may employ to get rid of the sciatic nerve pain in your lower back and leg is by using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS. This approach can give you temporary relief of pain so you can carry on a normal, pain-free day. Here is how treatment is delivered and what it might do to give you some relief.

How TENS Works to Relieve Pain

The effectiveness of TENS is primarily based on the Gate Control Theory of pain. This theory speculates that if the conduction of nerve signals can be interrupted before they get to the brain, one can prevent the brain from reacting to pain signals. During a TENS session, a mild electrical current is sent into the muscles in the painful region. The current is a rhythmic pulse that is adjusted until you begin to feel some pain relief.

TENS units may also stimulate the body to produce a natural pain reliever called endorphins. As this chemical is released into the bloodstream, irritated muscles and nerves in the painful region relax, giving you additional pain relief.

How TENS is Delivered

Your chiropractor will have you relax on an exam table. They will place electrodes over your lower back muscles. The electrodes are attached to the TENS unit and a small electrical current is started into your back. The doctor starts with a low current at a specific pulse. They will slowly increase the current and pulse rate until you begin to feel an easing of the pain.

Your chiropractor may suggest using TENS prior to physical therapy or a spinal manipulation if your pain is particularly acute. They may also use TENS after a session to reduce pain created by the other treatments.

The doctor may suggest the use of a home TENS unit. This is a small battery-operated unit that you can wear on a belt or carry in your pocket. Electrodes are placed on the skin to deliver the electrical current, like the unit in the chiropractor's office. The doctor will show you how to adjust your home unit to the settings that were effective during the office treatment.

Some Precautions With Home TENS Units

There are conditions where TENS is not considered safe to use. Do not use your TENS unit:

  • if a rash develops where the electrodes touched the skin
  • when the skin is wet from perspiration, being in the rain, or taking a bath or shower
  • with heating pads or cold packs
  • while driving
  • while sleeping

While the use of TENS only gives you temporary relief, it is a way to relieve the pain and help you work or relax during the day.

For a local chiropractor, contact an office such as Black Horse Chiropractic