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Singapore Med J. 2012 Nov;53(11):e249-50.

Is there a role for TENS application in the control of diabetes mellitus in insulin-dependent patients?

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Department of Anaesthesia, College of Medicine, King Saud University Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


An 80-year-old man with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus presented to the hospital with low back pain. He was initially managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, tramadol and epidural steroid injection. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), applied on the back and buttocks, was subsequently advised. Initially, TENS was applied once every 24 hours. On improvement of pain symptoms, it was increased to thrice every 24 hours. The patient then complained of symptoms of hypoglycaemia (blood sugar level < 4 mmol/L). Discontinuation of TENS resulted in raised blood sugar level. When TENS was restarted, the same hypoglycaemic response was noted. The insulin dosage was adjusted to half of the patient's routine daily requirement with continued application of TENS. This incidental finding has alerted us to hypoglycaemic episodes following TENS application, which may be due to effective pain control, decreased sympathetic stimulation, enhanced insulin sensitivity or altered muscle metabolism due to electrical stimulation.

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