TENS Unit for Sciatica – Where to Place TENS Pads for Sciatica?

How To Use A TENS Machine For Sciatica Pain Relief

While widely available in commerce and not expensive at all, TENS units are used for a wide plethora of medical affections that involve inflammation and painful sensations. From this point of view, many of them are advertised for sciatica only, yet their purposes go in a wide variety of directions. All in all, if you are after quick solutions, learning how to use a TENS unit for sciatica pain relief will improve your life overnight.

How a TENS unit works?

A TENS unit is usually operated with batteries. It is a small device that often features a remote controller. It comes with a few attachments – electrodes or pads. These attachments go on the painful areas, while the actual unit will send an electric current to them. You can adjust the intensity, frequency and pattern through the remote controller.

Electrical pulses soothe the affected area and go through the nerve fibers. They work on the painful signals by suppressing them. As a direct consequence, the body will also be stimulated to produce extra pain killing chemicals. In other words, TENS units will work for arthritis, sciatica and other similar affections.

Even if a TENS unit is not advertised to work against sciatica, it will – even the severe pains associated with a longterm affection. The painkiller alternative is safe and less likely to cause any risks. It does not cause addiction either and it will not flood your body with all kinds of negative chemicals – ideal for those with chronic pains.

The overall convenience is another good thing about TENS units. Such units are small and compact. Some of them are so small that they can fit inside your pocket. You can use a unit at home, in your office or while on the go. Now, what else do you need to know before learning how to use a TENS unit for sciatica pain relief?

How do TENS units work for sciatica pain relief?

A TENS unit could be a bit confusing if you have always dealt with painkillers instead. It looks sophisticated, but its operating principles are relatively easy to understand. It basically sends electrical pulses to the skin. These pulses will travel through your skin, muscles and other tissues, as well as the nerves.

The first effect is a stimulation of your nerves, which will cause them to produce more endorphins – the natural painkillers produced by the body. Then, it annihilates pain signals from reaching the nervous system. In other words, you no longer feel the pain. Finally, these electrical impulses will help you relax the tight muscles in the affected area – instant relief. Each of these effects will work against pain.

Learning how to use a TENS unit for sciatica pain relief depends on several factors and one of them is the actual severity of your affection. Some people may experience mild symptoms of discomfort and pain. Some others – those who suffer for a long time – could experience intense episodes of excruciating pains.

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In other words, there are people out there who will benefit from instant relief within half an hour only. Such a short session will annihilate the pain and provide relief in no time – they can do it while watching TV or reading a magazine. Then, if you suffer from sciatica for a long time, chances are your pains are more intense and require more work.

In this case, the treatment may take longer. You may need more sessions. They could be a bit longer too. You may not experience immediate pain relief, but in the long run. There is not much to worry about – fitting the sessions throughout your day is fairly simple. You might as well put the pads on and get pain relief while in work. Keep the unit in your pocket and operate it as you please.

It is essential to go through the instructions when learning how to use a TENS unit for sciatica pain relief. For instance, a single pad will not cause any positive effects. You need at least two pads on the body. Why? The electrical current must travel through your skin, muscles and nerves, so it requires two different pads.

TENS machine

Where to place TENS pads for sciatica?

The therapy is fairly simple to apply and does not require any sophisticated medical training. Instead, go through the instructions, yet most TENS units work on the same operating principles. Attach the electrodes to your unit, then attach them to your skin – placement is important based on your painful sensations.

Most TENS units come with adjustments. You might need to play around to figure out exactly what you need. There are usually different intensity levels, as well as pulsing patterns. Simply adjust it until you find out exactly what works for you. It pays off trying different settings, even after you find the right position – there might be something better.

The pad placement is essential when using a TENS unit and will make the difference between an efficient session and a worthless one. For example, you can place both of them on the lower back, close to the affected area in your back. Adjust the frequency, then move the pads around until you find the most comfortable position.

TENS unit placement for sciatica

You know the placement is correct, if you feel pain relief almost instantly. It does not mean that your treatment is over. You will need a good half an hour to ensure the pain does not come back. Stop the TENS unit after a few minutes and the pain will obviously return in no time – again, different people may need different levels of treatment.

The TENS unit will also work on the piriformis syndrome. Electrodes could go on the lower back or perhaps the back of the thighs. For instance, you could do one leg at a time. Place one electrode behind and above the knee and the other one higher on the thigh. Once you are done, move on to the other leg. Again, you will have to play around with the pad placement until you spot the right position.

The science behind using a TENS unit

Compared to classic painkillers, the TENS unit is relatively new in the treatment for sciatica. In other words, research is not fully conclusive, yet more and more professionals and pharmacies sell these devices to help people relieve pain. Believe it or not, three out of four sciatica sufferers experience pain relief after a single use only.

On the other hand, it is scientifically proven that certain physical activity will help against longterm pain relief. Unfortunately, many sufferers will find it impossible due to the excruciating pains. At this point, learning how to use a TENS unit for sciatica pain relief could open the door to further physical activity.

At the same time, research shows that it doesn’t matter how you set your TENS unit. It makes no difference what strength or frequency you choose, Any kind of stimulation will provide a bit of pain relief. Obviously, the point is to adjust the unit and the pad placement to gain as much as possible from this experience, so do not settle for less.

Side effects associated with TENS units

As a general rule of thumb, TENS units are very safe and come with no adverse reactions. There are no risks from mild electrical stimulation either. The unit is limited by batteries, so there are no risks to get electrocuted or anything like that. No matter how often you use it, it will never cause addiction either – there are no chemicals entering your body, like painkillers.

In the worst possible case, some people may experience mild skin irritation. This issue does not appear straight away though. It would take many sessions with the electrodes in the same position for days. Therefore, to prevent this potential reaction, make sure you slightly change the position every now and then – stick to the same area though.

There are, however, a few precautions you may want to keep in mind before buying your first TENS unit for sciatica pain relief. Pregnant women, those with heart conditions and those who wear pacemakers should discuss this sort of treatment with their specialist doctors first. There are no known risks, but being cautious is still important.

Suggested article: Sciatica And Pregnancy – Causes, Symptoms, Stretches


As a short final conclusion, learning how to use a TENS unit for sciatica pain relief is not as difficult as it may seem. You do not need any courses or education. Most units work in the same manner, so if you know how to use one, you will become familiar with all of them.

Remote controllers might be different though, so different buttons come up with different settings. There is not much to worry about – simply check the manual of instructions on how to do it right. What is more important is finding the right placement for the pads, as well as the optimal level of strength and frequency for maximum effects.​

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