Acute or chronic, lower back pain is one of the most common symptoms prompting a doctor’s visit. In fact, globally the burden of this disorder grows yearly. In 2016 alone, it contributed to 57.6 million of the totality of years lived with disability (YLD) worldwide (Shipton, Pain and Therapy, 2018). It is no wonder that lower back pain relief is a growing focus of health care providers.
Omron sponsored this post. I received compensation and an Omron Avail wireless TENS device for the purpose of this review. All stated thoughts and opinions are my personal and professional impressions of this product. (And always ethical!)
Lower Back Pain Relief
The management of lower back pain is certainly a focus of physical therapists. While other modalities may be employed, I have been utilizing TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) to treat my patients with these complaints for four decades. Its benefits are many.
1. No drugs!
Opioids and prescription painkillers are often associated with treatments for chronic pain. Current legislation is working to diminish opioid use in the U.S. in an effort to reduce drug-related deaths. According to the CDC, 2017 was a record high for drug-related deaths in the U.S, amounting to more than 72,000 people – a majority of those occurring from opioid overdose.
TENS employs microcurrent to send stimulating pulses across the skin and nerve strands. These pulses help to block pain signals from reaching the brain to diminish pain symptoms. “TENS has been clinically proven to help relieve mild to moderate musculoskeletal pain, including knee and joint pain and chronic lower back pain” (Johnson & Martinson, Pain, 2007).
2. Simple to use/app controlled
Omron recently launched its first wireless at-home drug-free pain management device, the Avail. This FDA-cleared TENS device is designed to provide symptomatic relief and management of chronic and acute pain. The Omron Avail is completely wireless and uses two contoured pads. Users may treat multiple pain sites simultaneously. Via Bluetooth® connectivity, the units are controlled with the Omron TENS app on your smartphone. The app is free, simple to use, and ready to go in a minute or two!
3. Pain-free MOVEMENT
Gone are the days of long wires, bulky units, and the need to wear TENS hooked to an article of clothing. The Avail is perfect for on-the-go personal pain relief. It is this greater freedom of comfortable movement that is, in my professional opinion, the Avail’s most valuable feature. **Research has concluded that earlier normal activities and exercise are resumed, the better the lower back pain relief (Shipton, Pain and Therapy, 2018). Guided programs that include stretching, strengthening, walking, aerobics and back protection/education (or Back School training) are most effective.
Top PT Tip
As with most injuries, it is movement to the rescue. Bedrest and sedentary lifestyles have been shown to prolong or exacerbate lower back pain. Using a modality, such as TENS, to control pain while activity is slowly and steadily introduced can mobilize recovery. Adequate flexibility, good core strength, and an adherence to a healthy weight will maintain a healthy lower back long term.
My Personal Experience
In my quest to recover from a pelvic/sacral fracture last year, I have experienced ongoing muscle spasms in my lower back and sacroliliac areas. Though I’ve returned to running, I’m far from peak form! Recently I thought I would use my Avail TENS during my walking warm-up drills. Initially, I began on a controlled environment- the treadmill. I felt so good (I used the massage feature while I walked), that I took the unit with me on the track, and then eventually the trails. Though Avail TENS is not recommended to be used during vigorous exercise that “breaks a sweat,” I had terrific results with my more moderate training.
TENS is not advised for use with cardiac pacemakers or implanted defibrillators. TENS is not a cure.
As always, as a physical therapist I do not advise or prescribe a treatment I do not wholly support or trust. Avail has passed the test! Rest assured, I will have my TENS unit at the ready for next Sunday’s Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon!!
In summarizing, lower back pain, both acute and chronic, is a prevalent complaint. Recently the national awareness of opioid abuse has led Americans to search for alternatives. Avail TENS is one such solution for non-pharmaceutical lower back pain relief.