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Outcome of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in chronic pain: short-term results of a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial

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The aim of this study was to test the efficacy of shortterm transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatment in chronic pain with respect to pain intensity and patients’ satisfaction with treatment results. We therefore performed a randomised controlled trial comparing TENS and sham TENS. Patients, researchers and therapists were blinded for treatment allocation. One hundred and sixty-three patients with chronic pain referred to the Pain Centre entered the study. Conventional TENS and sham TENS were applied in the segments of pain, for a period of ten days. Outcome measures were pain intensity (visual analogue scale) and patients’ satisfaction with treatment result (yes or no). The proportions of patients satisfied with treatment result differed significantly for TENS compared to sham TENS (58 and 42.7% respectively, x2=3.8, p=0.05). However, no differences in pain intensity were found for patients treated with TENS or sham TENS. Only for patients satisfied with treatment results pain intensity gradually decrease equally both for TENS and sham TENS with repeated treatment application.

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Correspondence to J. Oosterhof.

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Key words

  • Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation
  • Chronic pain
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Placebo effect
  • Duble-blind randomized controlled trial


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