Lots of us doctors, and many physical therapists, utilize TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) for low back pain. Now a Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reports that, according to new guidelines published online in the journal Neurology, the “popular pain therapy using a portable device called TENS should not be used to treat chronic low-back pain.” Wow, this will be a change for many of us.
After reviewing studies and medical literature, researchers from the Kansas University Medical Center said that “the therapy is ineffective for low-back pain.”
HealthDay reported, “An exception was diabetic nerve pain, also known as diabetic neuropathy, which can cause symmetrical numbness, decreased sensation, and a feeling of burning, usually involving the legs, but sometimes affecting the hands.”
Study lead author Richard M. Dubinsky, MD, MPH, FAAN, “chair of practice improvement for the” American Academy of Neurology (AAN), said “there is good evidence that TENS is effective in this condition, which develops in about 60 percent of people with diabetes.”
WebMD explained that TENS, which “is a pocket-sized, battery-operated device that sends electric currents to the nerves via electrodes with the goal of treating pain,” has been “used for pain relief for four decades.”
But, after reviewing five “TENS studies involving patients with chronic low back pain lasting three months or longer,” AAN investigators found that while some “studies did show a benefit for TENS, the two most rigorously designed and executed trials reviewed by the researchers did not.”
Well, I guess TENS is now out of my tool bag for low-back pain.