Guideline: Widely used device for pain therapy not recommended for chronic low back pain

December 30, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A new guideline issued by the American Academy of Neurology finds that transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS), a widely used pain therapy involving a portable device, is not recommended to treat chronic low-back painpain that has persisted for three months or longerbecause research shows it is not effective. The guideline is published in the December 30, 2009, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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," said guideline author Richard M. Dubinsky, MD, MPH, of Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. "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."

Dubinsky stated further that good evidence showed that TENS can 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.

Back pain--both acute and chronic--is the second most common neurologic ailment in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and is the most common cause of job-related disability. About 60 percent of people with diabetes will develop neuropathy.
-end-
he American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 22,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com.

VIDEO: http://www.youtube.com/AANChannel
TEXT: http://www.aan.com/press
TWEETS: http://www.twitter.com/AANPublic

American Academy of Neurology

Related Pain Articles from Brightsurf:

Pain researchers get a common language to describe pain
Pain researchers around the world have agreed to classify pain in the mouth, jaw and face according to the same system.

It's not just a pain in the head -- facial pain can be a symptom of headaches too
A new study finds that up to 10% of people with headaches also have facial pain.

New opioid speeds up recovery without increasing pain sensitivity or risk of chronic pain
A new type of non-addictive opioid developed by researchers at Tulane University and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine without increasing pain sensitivity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The insular cortex processes pain and drives learning from pain
Neuroscientists at EPFL have discovered an area of the brain, the insular cortex, that processes painful experiences and thereby drives learning from aversive events.

Pain, pain go away: new tools improve students' experience of school-based vaccines
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have teamed up with educators, public health practitioners and grade seven students in Ontario to develop and implement a new approach to delivering school-based vaccines that improves student experience.

Pain sensitization increases risk of persistent knee pain
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) School of Rehabilitation and Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont Research Centre (CRHMR) in collaboration with researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away
A new study by researchers in Montreal and Boston looks at the role that pain plays in osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 300 million adults worldwide.

Pain disruption therapy treats source of chronic back pain
People with treatment-resistant back pain may get significant and lasting relief with dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation therapy, an innovative treatment that short-circuits pain, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2018 annual meeting.

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology.

Peripheral nerve block provides some with long-lasting pain relief for severe facial pain
A new study has shown that use of peripheral nerve blocks in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) may produce long-term pain relief.

Read More: Pain News and Pain Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.