What is back pain?

Back pain refers to any type of pain that you might feel in your back or spinal column. It is a very prevalent condition: one in six Australians report experiencing back pain at some point in their lives, and four out of five individuals report experiencing it at least once during their lifetime. Both males and females report experiencing back pain, but it is more frequently experienced by adults aged 25 and above.

Back pains can be categorized into different types. A common type is lower back pains referring to pains felt in the lower parts of the spinal cord (lumbar region). Back problems can also occur in the upper back (thoracic region), the neck (cervical cranial region), and the tailbone (sacral region).

The pain associated with back problems can be an extremely frustrating and uncomfortable experience. Many people report a sensation of sharp pain, while others report aches or spasms in their lower limbs which may cause stiffness of movement depending on where you are experiencing the problem. The most common signs of sciatica nerve compression include numbness/tingling down one side if not both legs as well as severe difficulty performing certain daily tasks such as climbing stairs without assistance from someone else; these symptoms indicate that there's been damage to this major neural system responsible for powering muscle movements throughout your body

Chronic back pain can have a significant negative effect on both your physical and mental wellbeing. People who suffer from this condition may feel irritable or short-tempered; they might worry that their mood will be impacted by the severity of discomfort, which often leads them to feelings of helplessness as well.


Cause of back pain


The human spine is an intricate structure consisting of 24 vertebrae, which are small bones stacked on top of each other.The discs that are located between each vertebra act as a cushion or shock absorber. This allows the spine the have flexibility.The small joints called 'facet' joints allow you to move and bend your back. A mesh of ligaments and muscles holds the spine together and provides structural support, allowing you to move.

Although back pain can originate from any of these structures, it is not usually indicative of severe damage to your spine.The pain is usually caused by problems with nearby muscles, ligaments, or joints, or from issues with spinal discs. For the vast majority of people, back pain is not caused by any particular condition and is referred to as non-specific back pain. The most common causes of low back pain include:


  • Muscle Strain/Sprain

Muscle strains and sprains are common injuries that can cause back pain and discomfort. They're often related to overuse.


Wear and tear is a normal part of aging, and it is expected for your lower back to start bothering you as you age. When the cartilage breaks down between the spinal joints, it can cause inflammation in the surrounding tissues. This inflammation, combined with the thinning of cartilage, increases friction in the joints, which may cause pain in the lower back.


  • Degenerative disc disease

 Although the name may sound worrying, it simply means you have a damaged disc causing pain. Over time, discs become thinner and flatter due to wear and tear, making them less able to cushion the vertebrae and more likely to tear.


Sciatica occurs when there is pressure or inflammation on the sciatic nerves. It causes pain that radiates from the hip down the leg.


  • Spinal Stenosis

When the spinal column narrows (spinal stenosis), it puts extra stress on the spinal nerve roots and spinal cords, which can cause pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and even paralysis. You may experience any number of different types of pain throughout the body. Some people with spinal stenosis report worsening pain when they stand up or walk.


  • Herniated Discs

When the protective covering on intervertebral discs begins to tear, it can lead not only to pain but also to serious complications like nerve damage. A herniated disc is an example of this type of problem where there has been a penetration by soft inner tissue through outer layers due to either too much pressure or something else such as bulging - thus resulting in symptoms like tingling sensation across your spine's region(s).


  • Spondylolisthesis

You may have a slippage in your spine when one of the vertebrae moves forward. It's most common at L5-S1, but can happen anywhere along this region and is often caused by either disc degeneration or fractures -- pars (spinal) stenosis hurts too! The narrowing of the inside spaces in your spine, most often from a herniated disc but sometimes due to spinal osteoarthritis (aka spondylosis). This can result in painful pressure on nerves that feed into it. Spinal stenosis may occur anywhere within our lower back; however lumbar is typically where this condition will affect people most seriously because there are not many other areas where strained tissues meet rigid objects like an intact vertebrae canal or nearby blood vessels.


  • Poor Posture

If you have a bad posture, your back will be in pain and it's difficult to focus on anything. A good position should help with relieving this discomfort by keeping the spine straight while also giving room for breathing so that all parts of our body can function optimally!


Range of Lower Back Pain Symptoms


Low back pain has many different symptoms. It can be mild and merely annoying or it could become severe, debilitating-causing you to be unable for daily tasks like getting up from sitting down too much without assistance. It starts suddenly but often develops over time - possibly coming one day then going another until finally staying around indefinitely. The pain can be felt in various ways depending on what's causing it. For example:

  • You may have low back pain that is dull or achy. This type of discomfort can be located around your spine, and it's often more tolerable when you're sitting still for an extended period as opposed to moving around too much!

  • Stinging, burning pain that often moves from the low back to somewhere in your thighs. The severity will vary for each person but can include numbness or tingling.

  • Muscle spasms and tightness in the low back, pelvis, and hips.

  • Other common symptoms are difficulty getting up from a seated position and trouble walking for an extended period of time without stopping etc.



Type of Back Pain


There are many ways to categorize low back pain, the two common classifications are mechanical and radicular pain or acute and chronic pain.

  • Mechanical and Radicular Pain

The most common type of lower back pain is mechanical pain, which is caused by the muscles, ligaments, joints, or bones in and around the spine. This type of pain is usually localized to the lower back, buttocks, and sometimes the top of the legs. It is usually influenced by loading the spine and may feel different based on motion (forward/backwards/twisting), activity, standing, sitting, or resting.

The type of pain that radiates down the sciatic nerve is called radicular pain. This pain can be caused by inflammation or impingement of the spinal nerve root. The specific sensation of radicular pain is sharp, electric, and burning. It is often accompanied by numbness or weakness (sciatica). This type of pain is typically felt on only one side of the body.

  • Actue and Chronic Back Pain

Acute lower back pain is usually short-term, only lasting for a few days up to a few weeks. However, it can be connected to an identifiable event or injury. When acute back pain fades, there is usually no ongoing effect on mobility.

Chronic lower back pain can last for months or even years. In many cases, there is no clear link to an initial injury. Back pain that starts out acute can become chronic. It's estimated that around 20% of acute low back pain cases become chronic.


What is a TENS machine, and how can it help relieve lower back pain?


A TENS machine can provide short-term pain relief by delivering low or high-intensity electrical impulses through electrodes or a belt that you attach to the skin near the painful area. This helpful medical device won't ‘cure' your symptoms, but it's a useful alternative or addition to pain medication.

 The low-current electrical impulses from a TENS machine disrupt the way nerves send pain signals to the brain, providing relief from aches and pains in the lower back. TENS units can be operated at low to high frequencies and at varying intensities, depending on how much sensation or muscle contraction you want to feel. Sensory intensity refers to a strong but comfortable sensation that doesn't stimulate muscle contraction. Motor intensity is when the effect is strong enough to produce a contraction in the muscle but not strong enough to cause pain.

A study published in the National Institutes of Health found that different frequencies activate opioid receptors, which play an important role when it comes to reducing pain. But here's where things get interesting: at the spinal cord level, this device increases levels of inhibitory neurotransmitters known as GABA. Inhibiting neurotransmitters reduces the signals that travel between cells, which helps to alleviate pain.


What's the best way to use a TENS machine for lower back pain?


TENS, when properly used, is generally safe. If you think you'd like to try TENS therapy for back pains, talk to your GP first. The technique works differently for different people, and it's not for everyone. For example, your doctor may advise against using TENS if you have a pacemaker or you are in the first weeks of pregnancy. Read the instructions at the end of this guide before using the Tens machine.


Here are the best practices for using a TENS unit:


  • Application of electrodes for lower back pain

Depending on the size of the area you are treating, you can choose to use either 2 or 4 electrode pads.

If your lower back pain is on one side and the area is small, try using two standard electrodes pads (Size: 5cmx5cm or 4cmx4cm), placing one electrode at the top of the pain and one electrode below (about 1 inch apart). Try to place the pads on the muscle, as opposed to directly onto your backbones.



If you're experiencing pain in the middle or either side of your spine or the pain area is large, try using four standard electrodes or consider some large electrode pads (Size: 5cm x 9cm or 10cm x 15cm). Place one electrode on either side of your spine, about an inch away from the spine. Then, place the other electrode on the other side of your spine, again about an inch away from the spine.


Bandage Tape can also be used to tape electrodes in place.


Try different intensities and settings to find what is comfortable for you. Over time, as you become accustomed to using a TENS device, the sensation of electricity may lessen, but the therapy can still be effective.

  • Setting the TENS Mode for lower back pain

There are three mode settings: Continue, Burst, and Modulation.

Continue Mode
The "Continue" setting is most commonly used for acute lower back pain relief. If you want to use the customized program, set the pulse rate between 70Hz – 120Hz and a pulse width between 170uS – 200uS.

Modulation Mode
For back pain you have had for over a few weeks (chronic or persistent pain) – use the ‘modulation’ setting to prevent your body from getting used to the stimulation, which would make the unit less effective. Our Caremax TENS Machine has programs specifically designed for Back Pain. For reference, please click our program card. If you want to use the customized program, set the pulse rate between 2Hz – 10Hz and a pulse width between 170uS – 200uS.

Burst Mode
is an excellent choice for chronic back pain relief. The unit will deliver a burst of pain-relieving power, providing you with much-needed relief.


  • Setting the Pulse Rate (Frequency) for back pain

Pulse rate refers to the number of electrical pulses you'll feel in one second. Frequency is measured in hertz (Hz). Pain relief can occur at various frequencies. For acute back pain, a frequency between 70 and 120 Hz is usually the most effective. Lower settings between 2 and 10 Hz can also be beneficial for chronic back pain, as they stimulate the release of endorphins. A setting from 35 to 50 Hz is widely used to stimulate muscles for strengthening or even relaxation rather than to relieve the back pain.

Generally, the following settings are recommended for optimal results:

    • 80 to 120Hz for acute back pain

    • 35-50Hz for back muscle stimulation

    • 2 to 10Hz for chronic back pain


  • Setting the Pulse Width for back pain

Width controls the on / off periods of the current. Most people find pain relief occurs in lower to mid ranges of time periods. Muscle stimulation needs a longer pulse width to effectively reproduce a muscle contraction. You can alter the time that pulses linger before resetting. The time period is very short. It is measured in microseconds u S (1 thousandth of a second). While you might not notice the difference, nerves do. The following settings are recommended for back pain relief: 175 - 200 us.


  • How Often Should You Use Your TENS Machine for back pain?

If you have the unit on constantly throughout the day, it will become less effective. For best results, you can leave your TENS unit switched on for 20 to 40 minutes once every 2 to 3 days. For the most potential benefit, keep your TENS device off for at least an hour before bedtime. In general, if you’re using your TENS unit regularly, you should limit yourself to no more than two to three treatments per day. After two hours, a TENs unit is not recommended because the electrical current might irritate the skin.


Using Caremax TENS machine for Back Pain Mangement

We provide a comprehensive packaging solution for Back Pain Relief. Discover the most sought-after products below essential for effective TENS therapy treatment.

 Caremax 2.0 Classic TENS machine   Caremax 2.0 Pro TENS Machine


Where and when to not use TENS machines


TENS electrodes should never be placed:

  • Across the eyes or brain

  • On the front of one's neck due to the risk associated with an acute drop in blood pressure (via a vasovagal response), or even a laryngeal spasm

  • Through the chest

  • Across a pacemaker (orother electrical implant) because of the risk of interference and failure

  • Directly on open wounds or cracked skin areas (although it may be applied around any area of the body, where the skin is damaged), such as burns, cuts, scrapes, sunburns, blisters, and so forth.

  • If you're pregnant, or there's a chance you might be pregnant – TENS may not be recommended early in pregnancy

  • Over a malignant tumour (based on experiments where electric current encourages cancerous cells to grow).

  • Directly on the spinal cord (although it can be positioned on either side of the spine for back pain relief).

  • Internally, except where specifically applied to oral, vaginal, and anal sexual intercourse, the use of TENS units is restricted to medical purposes.

  • Epilepsy patients or history of heart disease.

  • In areas of numbness, TENS can be used with caution because of the risk of causing nerve damage. It may not work as effectively on damaged nerves, and it may irritate the skin if current levels are too high.



Are there any risks of side effects when using a TENS Machine?


TENS is a widely used and effective pain management technique with few if any side effects.

Some people may be sensitive to the electrical pulses used in TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). They may experience an unpleasant sensation, such as tingling or burning, during treatment. Talk to your doctor about alternative treatments. You may also find special accessory designed for those who are sensitive to electricity, such as conductive glove, sock and belt.





  1. Effectiveness of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for treatment of hyperalgesia and pain (2009)

  2. Pain Management. (2014.). “Using TENS for Pain Control: The State of the Evidence.”https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186747/pdf/nihms620660.pdf.