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Nerve Stimulation May Offer Relief for Fibromyalgia Sufferers

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 28 Jan 2020
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Image: Dr. Kathleen Sluka administering TENS therapy (Photo courtesy of University of Iowa)
Image: Dr. Kathleen Sluka administering TENS therapy (Photo courtesy of University of Iowa)
A new study suggests that transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) during physical activity can significantly reduce fibromyalgia associated pain.

Researchers at the University of Iowa (Iowa City, USA) and Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN, USA) conducted a study involving 301 women suffering from fibromyalgia to evaluate if TENS used during physical activity would improve movement‐evoked pain and other patient‐reported outcomes. The women were randomly assigned to active-TENS, placebo-TENS, or no‐TENS during a two hour period of daily activity for four weeks. TENS was applied to the lumbar and cervicothoracic regions using a modulated frequency (2‐125Hz) at the highest tolerable intensity.

The results revealed that after four weeks, the active‐TENS group reported a greater reduction in movement‐evoked pain and fatigue than the placebo‐TENS and no‐TENS groups. A greater percentage of the active‐TENS group (70%) reported an improvement on the global impression of change (GIC) scale when compared to placebo‐TENS (31%) and no‐TENS (9%). There were no TENS‐related serious adverse events, and less than 5% of participants experienced minor adverse events. The study was published on November 18, 2019, in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

“This is another tool that's not a drug that patients can use to manage their pain. TENS is available over the counter, is inexpensive, and is safe and easy to use. It can provide a self-management option for people with chronic pain, particularly fibromyalgia, to provide an additional level of pain relief,” said senior author Kathleen Sluka, PT, PhD, of the University of Iowa. “Alternating between low and high frequency worked best to provide pain relief. So too did cranking up the machine to its highest intensity possible.”

Fibromyalgia is a term that describes a common syndrome of chronic widespread soft-tissue pain that is accompanied by weakness, fatigue, and sleep disturbances; the cause is unknown. Fibromyalgia affects around seven times as many women as men, and typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly. Some estimates suggest nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia to some degree.

Related Links:
University of Iowa
Vanderbilt University

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