Different mechanisms for the short-term effects of real versus sham transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) in patients with chronic pain: a pilot study.
SourceJournal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, 26, 1, (2012), pp. 5-12
Article / Letter to editor
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Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy
SubjectNCEBP 6: Quality of nursing and allied health care; DCN MP - Plasticity and memory NCEBP 7: Effective primary care and public health
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) has existed since the early 1970s. However, randomized placebo controlled studies show inconclusive results in the treatment of chronic pain. These results could be explained by assuming that TENS elicits a placebo response. However, in animal research TENS has been found to decrease hyperalgesia, which contradicts this assumption. The aim of this study is to use quantitative sensory testing to explore changes in pain processing during sham versus real TENS in patients with chronic pain. Patients with chronic pain (N = 20) were randomly allocated to real TENS or sham TENS application. Electrical pain thresholds (EPTs) were determined inside and outside the segment stimulated, before and after the first 20 minutes of the intervention, and after a period of 10 days of daily real/sham TENS application. Pain relief did not differ significantly for real versus sham TENS. However, by comparing time courses of EPTs, it was found that EPT values outside the segment of stimulation increased for sham TENS, whereas for real TENS these values decreased. There were, however, no differences for EPT measurements inside the segment stimulated. These results illustrate the importance of including mechanism-reflecting parameters in addition to symptoms when conducting pain research.
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