Widely used device not recommended for chronic low back pain

December 31st, 2009 - 5:40 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 31 (ANI): Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS), a widely used pain therapy involving a portable device, is not effective in treating chronic low-back pain that has persisted for three months or longer.

And thus, a new guideline issued by the American Academy of Neurology has not recommended the therapy for chronic pain.

The guideline determined that TENS can be effective in treating diabetic nerve pain, also called diabetic neuropathy, but more and better research is needed to compare TENS to other treatments for this type of pain.

Research on TENS for chronic low-back pain has produced conflicting results.

For the guideline, the authors reviewed all of the evidence for low-back pain lasting three months or longer.

Acute low-back pain was not studied. The studies to date show that TENS does not help with chronic low-back pain.

All but one of the studies excluded people with known causes of low-back pain, such as a pinched nerve, severe scoliosis (curving of the spine), severe spondylolisthesis (displacement of a backbone or vertebra) or obesity.

In the one study that looked at low-back pain associated with known conditions, TENS was not shown to be effective.

The only specific neurologic cause of chronic low-back pain where TENS was studied was multiple sclerosis, and TENS was not shown to help.

“The strongest evidence showed that there is no benefit for people using TENS for chronic low-back pain. Doctors should use clinical judgment regarding TENS use for chronic low-back pain. People who are currently using TENS for their low-back pain should discuss these findings with their doctors,” said guideline author Dr. Richard M. Dubinsky of Kansas University Medical Center.

Dubinsky stated further that good evidence showed that TENS could be effective in treating diabetic nerve pain.

With TENS, a portable, pocket-sized unit applies a mild electrical current to the nerves through electrodes.

TENS has been used for pain relief in various disorders for years. Researchers do not know how TENS may provide relief for pain.

One theory is that nerves can only carry one signal at a time.

The TENS stimulation may confuse the brain and block the real pain signal from getting through.

The guideline is published in the latest online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. (ANI)

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