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J Pain. 2007 Mar;8(3):251-5. Epub 2006 Dec 13.

Differences in waveform characteristics have no effect on the anti-hyperalgesia produced by transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) in rats with joint inflammation.

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Graduate Program in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, Pain Research Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a nonpharmacological method for pain management. Commercial TENS units differ in their waveform characteristics. However, effects of different waveforms on analgesia produced by TENS are unknown. Therefore, we compared effects of high-frequency TENS with different waveforms--asymmetric biphasic square and symmetric biphasic square--on inflammatory hyperalgesia. Paw withdrawal latency to heat (PWL) was assessed prior to inflaming the knee joint with 3% carrageenan/kaolin in rats. Four hours after induction of inflammation, PWL significantly decreased in all groups, indicating development of hyperalgesia. High-frequency TENS was then applied to the inflamed knee joint for 20 minutes while the rat was lightly anesthetized with halothane. TENS treatment with either the asymmetric or symmetric waveform significantly increased the PWL when compared with sham TENS. Thus, differences in waveform characteristics do not affect the anti-hyperalgesia produced by TENS.


This study shows that different waveforms of TENS do not affect analgesic efficacy. This suggests that clinicians can select different waveforms to provide comfort during treatment but that reduction in pain is not a factor for waveform selection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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