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Clin Physiol. 2000 Mar;20(2):150-7.

The effect of high- and low-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation upon cutaneous blood flow and skin temperature in healthy subjects.

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Rehabilitation Sciences Research Group, School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, County Antrim BT37 0QB, Northern Ireland.


The reported non-analgesic effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) include alterations to the local circulation; however, research in this area has produced equivocal findings. In the present study, the effect of low- (4 Hz) and high-frequency (110 Hz) TENS on forearm skin blood perfusion was assessed using laser Doppler flowmetry. The effect on skin temperature was also assessed using a skin thermistor. Thirty healthy human volunteers were recruited and randomly assigned to a control or one of the two treatment groups. TENS was applied to the skin overlying the median nerve under double-blind conditions for 15 min. Blood flow and skin temperature readings were recorded pre-TENS, during TENS application and continued for 15 min post-TENS application. Analysis of results showed significant increases in blood perfusion during the treatment period in the low-frequency group when compared to the other two groups (P = 0.0106; ANOVA). No significant changes in skin temperature were observed. The results of this study demonstrate that low-frequency TENS produces a local increase in cutaneous blood flow.

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