Efficacy and safety of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for acute and chronic pain in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 381 studies (the meta-TENS study)

Review written by Dr Sarah Haag info

Key Points

  1. TENS has been shown to be safe and effective at reducing pain.
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BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) has been used for symptomatic relief of pain worldwide, but the efficacy and safety of TENS continues to be questioned. The uncertainty about the safety and efficacy of TENS has led to confusion among clinicians and policymakers alike. Clinical practice guidelines do little to clarify the best path, as some guidelines do recommend the use of TENS for pain, depending on the medical diagnosis.

The goal of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of TENS for pain regardless of the medical diagnosis in adults.

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) has been used for symptomatic relief of pain worldwide, but the efficacy and safety of TENS continues to be questioned.
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TENS activates inhibitory mechanisms that reduce central excitability which does lead to a reduction of pain.

METHODS

  • 11 electronic databases (Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central, CINAHL, PsycINFO, LILACS, PEDRO, Web of Science, AMED, and SPORTDiscus) were searched from inception to July 2019, and updated on 17 May 2020 for full-text publications of randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews
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