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Volume 46 Number 1, 2009
   Pages 85 — 94

Abstract - Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for treatment of spinal cord injury neuropathic pain

Cecilia Norrbrink, RPT, PhD

Department of Clinical Sciences, Karolinska Institutet Danderyd Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden; Spinalis SCI Unit, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract — The aim of the study was to assess the short-term effects of high- and low-frequency (HF and LF, respectively) transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury (SCI). A total of 24 patients participated in the study. According to the protocol, half of the patients were assigned to HF (80 Hz) and half to LF (burst of 2 Hz) TENS. Patients were instructed to treat themselves three times daily for 2 weeks. After a 2-week wash-out period, patients switched stimulation frequencies and repeated the procedure. Results were calculated on an intent-to-treat basis. No differences between the two modes of stimulation were found. On a group level, no effects on pain intensity ratings or ratings of mood, coping with pain, life satisfaction, sleep quality, or psychosocial consequences of pain were seen. However, 29% of the patients reported a favorable effect from HF and 38% from LF stimulation on a 5-point global pain-relief scale. Six of the patients (25%) were, at their request, prescribed TENS stimulators for further treatment at the end of the study. In conclusion, TENS merits consideration as a complementary treatment in patients with SCI and neuropathic pain.

Key words: high frequency, low frequency, neuropathic pain, pain, pain intensity, pain relief, rehabilitation, SCI, spinal cord injury, TENS, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.


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