Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation For Chronic Low Back Pain

The TENS is a type of electrical nerve stimulator that is employed to treat chronic intractable pain. This stimulator is attached to the surface of the patient’s skin over the peripheral nerve to be stimulated. It may be applied in a variety of settings (in the patient’s home, a physician’s office, or in an outpatient clinic). Payment for TENS may be made under the durable medical equipment benefit.

Chronic low back pain (CLBP) is defined as:

1. an episode of low back pain that has persisted for three months or longer; and
2. is not a manifestation of a clearly defined and generally recognizable primary disease entity. For example, there are cancers that, through metastatic spread to the spine or pelvis, may elicit pain in the lower back as a symptom; and certain systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis manifest many debilitating symptoms of which low back pain is not the primary focus.

Effective June 8, 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will allow coverage for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) for CLBP only when all of the following conditions are met.

In order to support additional research on the use of TENS for CLBP, we will cover this item under section 1862(a)(1)(E) of the Social Security Act (the Act) subject to all of the following conditions:

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