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Chiropractic Research Review

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation: Effect on Nerves

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is used to manage a range of acute and chronic conditions, including postoperative, arthritic, labor and low back pain. Despite more than 30 years of clinical application, research has produced conflicting evidence pertaining to the potential neurophysiologic and sensory effects of this commonly utilized treatment.

This study was designed to investigate the effect of different TENS parameters on nerve conduction in the superficial radial nerve, on peripheral mechanical pain threshold (MPT) and tactile threshold (TT).

Fifty subjects were randomly divided into five groups. One group served as controls, while the other groups received electrical stimulation consisting of one of four combinations of TENS pulse durations (50usec and 200usec) and frequencies (4Hz and 110Hz).

In the TENS groups, stimulation was applied for 15 minutes over the superficial radial nerve of the dominant forearm, and compound action potentials, MPT readings and TT readings were recorded bilaterally over a one-hour period. Results showed that TENS produced a significant increase in negative peak latency, and simultaneous increases in MPT and TT. These results were evident under one set of stimulation parameters (200usec, 110Hz).

As the authors note, their findings add to previous evidence suggesting that TENS, specifically when applied at 110Hz and 200usec, effects the most significant hypoalgesia on mechanical pain.

Walsh DM, Lowe AS, McCormack K, et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: effect on peripheral nerve conduction, mechanical pain threshold, and tactile threshold in humans. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1998:79, pp1051-8.

Chiropractic Research Review

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