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Electrical Stimulation Devices for Back Pain
Episode 287th January 2021 • Back Talk Doc • Sanjiv Lakhia - Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates
00:00:00 00:26:17

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While COVID-19 has the headlines, for many, 2020 has also become synonymous with back pain. Working from home has cast many people from their ergonomic office chairs to couches, spare bedrooms, and dining room chairs. 

On this episode, our Back Talk Doc, Dr. Sanjiv Lakhia, explores the benefits of utilizing electrical stimulation to combat those work-from-home back pains. Electrical stimulation, a form of neuromodulation, is essentially applying different types of electrical or electricity-based products and magnetic-based products to influence the physiology of your nervous system, that is, the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nervous system. (3:46)

Dr. Lakhia identifies and briefly reviews three of the most common electrical stimulation devices.

  1. TENS unit (4:50): TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and is available at any local pharmacy. The cost ranges from $50 to a couple of hundred dollars. The TENS unit stimulates the sensory nerves to block pain signals and generate endorphins. It is often used for the treatment of acute post-operative pain and chronic intractable pain. The downside to TENS is that it provides very short-term relief, sometimes providing relief only while being used, with a maximum relief window of 3-4 hours.
  2. Alpha-Stim (8:45): Alpha-Stim waveform electrotherapy is FDA approved for the treatment of chronic pain, anxiety, and depression and is one of the more well-researched neuromodulation devices for pain. The Alpha-Stim works with small electrodes that clip to your earlobe and send a low microcurrent 0.5-hertz frequency wave through cranial nerve connections from the ear into the deep pain centers of the brain. This can stimulate the brainstem as well as the cortex and affect serotonin, norepinephrine, other neurotransmitter levels. The Alpha-Stim can also be used with wand-like electrode probes that can be applied to each side of an affected area. The probes send quick electrical pulses to the area. The Alpha-Stim may also provide relief to patients suffering from insomnia and other back pain-related sleep problems.
  3. H-Wave (15:42): H-Wave is a multi-functional electrical stimulation device intended to speed recovery, restore function, and manage chronic, acute, or post-operative pain. The H-Wave delivers a low voltage current that promotes injury recovery and rehabilitation by stimulating muscles and can help prevent disuse atrophy. The H-Wave can provide significant relief, and, like the Alpha-Stim, it appears that the benefits of H-Wave are cumulative and lasting. So, over time, you get better and better results the more you use it. And it's an alternative to the use of prescription pain medication. The typical session lasts around 30 to 60 minutes. H-Wave is available both by prescription and offered as an OTC model.

For more information on Dr. Sanjiv Lakhia's practice, visit

Back Talk Doc is brought to you by Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, with offices in North and South Carolina. To learn more about Dr. Lakhia and treatment options for back and spine issues, go to To schedule an appointment with Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, you can call us at 1-800-344-6716 or visit our website at