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TENS for sciatic pain?

vermithraxvvermithrax Posts: 21
Has anyone tried a TENS unit for sciatic pain?

My Doc mentioned it the other day, but didn't really elaborate. Where do you get one, what brand and how much are they?

Do they work?


  • As far as I am concerned, one has sciatic pain because something is causing the nerve to be compressed. It makes sense to try to determine what is causing the sciatic pain, and then doing what is possible to help the nerve decompress. This might be physical therapy, steroid injections that help any inflammation that might be present around the nerve root to subside, McKenzie exercises, etc.

    Often TENS units are purchased through a physical therapist, and, in this situation, it is sometimes covered by insurance. There are available online as well...and they come at all price points.

    I personally found that it made my nerve pain worse. However, I know that a number of people on the board have had good results with them. I guess you won't know until you try one.

    Are you currently going to physical therapy?
  • if you are in the uk you can get one on a 30 day try out but if you are outside the uk i have asked the staff at acticare for a longer test period and they agreed .just mention spine health .the acticare is a very high quality device it comes with 4 rechargeable batteries and desk charger a set of high quality leads and a high quality carry case .it also has 3 other modes on it that act like a spinal cord stimulator.it also has 2 high frequency modes {most other TENS don't have HF and RF} YES its a bit pricey but its worth the money .see acticare website for more info .i have used all makes including omron {also good } but i have stayed with acticare as i have found it to be the best .as with ALL TENS they don't work well on sciatic pain but they are very good on lower back ache
  • I have used TENS for my sciatica. Rather than wear all 4 electrodes on the back I only put 2 on my back and the other two down my leg (one near the knee) and the other at the side of my ankle. Those two spots are where I have the most sciatic pain. I find it helps
  • hello

    ive used tens machines for a couple of years for the back pain from a herniated disc, i still use it now. I was only talking to my physio about sciatica/neuropathy, and he said it will not work for that.

    I have tried it hoping it'll relieve the nerve sensations, but it never works, jusr for the low back pain.

    L5/s1 discectomy & decompression 2009
    ALIF l5/s1 2011
    Awaiting X-ray & consultant to see if fused, but experiencing a lot of pain again :( 2013
  • the TENS unit works okay for my sciatica. as i said, i put the electrodes on my leg along the pathway of the S1 nerve, and the shocking sensations of the TENS makes me forget the pain in my leg. Sure I get some pretty prickly feelings from the TENS but I prefer that to the sciatica. :)
  • etesian07eetesian07 Posts: 2
    edited 12/27/2012 - 9:56 AM
    What you've stated is all true-often, your PT, with a precisely worded RX from your doctor will allow you a TENS unit loan, and possibly, you will be able to keep it. A lot of things must be true (at least for my insurance)-chronic pain for at least 3 months (double check), pain that has not responded to anything else (it's helpful if your doc is good enough to list these things). Unicorns are nice, too- Hopefully, you have good insurance.
    I will try to stay on point. It's possible the TENS unit has improved greatly since the start of this thread. It works during and after you put the electrodes on the part of your body which is most painful. You control the pulse, so it's comfortable. It releases endorphins, so possibly has some anti-depressant quality as well. I highly recommend the TENS unit. It's worth a go, anyway.
    Good luck.
  • backache99backache99 Posts: 1,338
    edited 12/27/2012 - 12:36 PM
    i have still got the acticare but sadly they are not selling the unit anymore due to financial reasons .but you could purchase a touch tens around $30 at max ..i bought on here in the uk from amazon and it came in 2 days .you can use any TENS for leg pain sciatica.either place an electrode either side of your spine at L5 approx.and have the tens on the throb..throb..mode {sometimes know as burst mode} if that doesn't work try this .one electrode just to the side of your spine of which leg hurts so if its the right leg ...just to the right of the spine .then the other electrode on the upside of your ankle near the bit that sicks out .{on the inside of your foot} you may have to play around with the electrode to get max effect .and set on the tap/tap.tap.mode or the throb ...throb....throb mode ..the tap mode is more like acupuncture and not very nice on the skin ,i always use the throb mode//on the acticare its mode 3 on
    on the I touch TENS machine {$30) from amazon its {C }.well worth a go .i use my unit every day .if you can get hold of an acticare then do as they are the very best and well made {NHS hospital approved }.its a nasty pain is sciatica and i wish you the best in reliving it ..if you are buying yourself a TENS then buy one with pig tales replacement electrodes they are easy to get and when buying replacement electrodes get the TYCO hypoallergenic in blue they are the best i have bought hundreds of replacement electrodes and the TYCO are the best and only available in one shop in the uk the usa will have them as they are made there/..don't spend a fortune on a TENS but don't economise too much NEVER buy cheap electrodes ..you may as well throw your money away .i would say $50 max on a normal TENS an acticare pay $200 less tax {in uk}{vat}
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • I have just had my first dose of sciatic pain. I went to the GP because I didn't know what it was. VERY PAINFUL. Painkillers did not seem to work so I tried a TENS machine, it worked extremely well and I am pleased I bought it. The sciatic pain was gone in 12 days. I am not medical in any way, all I can say is that a TENS machine worked for me
  • I would like to add that my GP actually prescribed a TENS machine for neuropathic pain caused by diabetes in my left leg. The TENS machine actually worked really well but of course I had to give the machine back in two weeks because it belonged to the NHS. I live in north wales UK.
  • your doctor can give you a prescription or order one for you. It is usually paid for by insurance.
  • If your insurance doesn't cover the unit, you can always purchase one on your own with your Doctors approval. My surgeon cleared me to purchase a unit on my own. I use the Omron device that's around $40 and it's just as strong as the unit they use on me in PT. It's true that TENS units are used for muscles, however if your muscles are tight (or protecting a damaged area of you spine) it can actually cause worsening nerve pain ( according to my surgeon). When my back pain and spasms are at their worst, it also increases my nerve pain. It doesn't take the pain away but it has provided some relief. I highly recommend giving it a try.
    Progressive DDD
    Chronic S1 Radiculopathy
    Discectomy L5-S1 2002
    Discectomy, Laminotomy/Foraminotomy L3-S1 January 2014
    Bilateral SI Joint Fusion and 2 level spinal Fusion October 2014
  • I have DDD & buldging discs at L4-5 & L5-S1 and a large herniated disc at L4-5. At first, the TENS unit actually took away my sciatica 90-100% for a good day. Now, it kind of confuses the pain while it's on but doesn't take away much pain at all. Ohhhh, I sure wish it still did!

    Maybe I'll focus on my extremely tight lower back muscles like Lcochran4 mentioned. I know they are part of the issue.
  • I finally decided this morning out of desperation and finally fed-up with pain to check the internet to see if I can find out what is wrong with me. First time I heard about sciatic pain! I've had this acute flare up since the middle of May (3 months) non-stop now. I've been to my chiropractor that treated me for a pinched nerve for 2 months 3 times a week with no release of the pain. I went to the physio once a week for about 6 weeks also no release in fact it made it worse. I am on all kinds of hectic pain killers including morphine every 4 hours. This relieves the pain in a way but not completely and most importantly it is not healing. I do have an ultra sound machine and I've used that on my lower back, thigh, knee, calf, ankle, foot with no response. I do have a TENS machine aswell and from your discussions that I've read this morning I am now going to give that a try and see if it will work. I am desperate for this to heal. I tried exercise but I can't even walk let alone trying exercise. So lets hope the TENS machine works. O and ps all the doctors etc I've seen the past couple months not ONE has diagnosed this incredible pain as sciatic. How does that happen? I have to read up on the internet to find out whats wrong with me? Seriously? I can't sit or walk or stand or lie down how is this possible.
  • If all you have seen is your chiropractor, they are not diagnosticians. Have you consulted with your primary doctor for evaluation and asked for a referral for treatment. Normally, flare ups of sciatica can disappear over days and weeks, and yes even months, as quickly and suddenly as the symptoms appear, so the normal course of treatment is anti inflammatories, ice, heat , rest, and stretching for at least 6 weeks. If the pain continues past that point, then a referral for further evaluation and treatment, including physical therapy may be given.


    There are several links on the left hand side of the forum that discusses treatment, stretches and symptoms of sciatica.
  • JFSHW47JJFSHW47 Posts: 4
    edited 08/21/2014 - 8:54 PM
    I just purchased a LG Elite Tens unit from for approximately $125.00. I have been dealing with spinal stenosis for the last 10 years.

    Solicitation not permitted.Please read the Forum rules
    Post Edited by Liz The Spine-Health Moderator Team

  • MatV, had the same problems with sciatic nerve pain since Feb of 2014, I too went through all the pain killers, muscle relaxers, predisone, PT with no letup. I went to a spine specialist and we had an MRI done which showed the disk protusion at the l5 s1 which was hitting the sciatic nerve causing my pain. I had an Epidural shot and the pain got down to about a 1 after a month but when I started slowly getting back into my exercise routine and golf it came back worse than before. After another epidural with absolutely no results I went to a spine surgeon. I got a copy of my MRI and he looked at it and after he recommended a microdistectomy I got a second opinion and got the same answer. I was the last person that ever wanted any type of spine surgery after reading all the horror stories but I decided to do 7/31/14 and immediately the pain was gone. I am 4 weeks into recovery and feel great. My point is get an MRI to find out what the problem is and then go from there. Google up microdistectomy and you'll see its the most minimally invasive procedure that can be done to get rid of the nerve pain. I was told if nothing is done you may end up damaging the nerve if you can't get the pinched nerve relieved.
  • While I recognize this is an old post I would like to add that you can buy one from Amazon for about $30.  I used it when I had unrelenting pain in my back.  While it was not a cure it helped me to walk to the surgeons office.  I had surgery 8 months ago, am experiencing SI Joint pain and am using the TENs unit again.  It does help.  It's not a cure but when there is nothing else I use it.  I hope this helps someone.
    8/31/15 microdiscetomy laminotomy
    8/15 reruptured l5
    12/24/13 laminotomy/discetomy of L5
    9/98 laminectomy l4/l5
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