Does sensory transcutaneous electrical stimulation enhance motor recovery following a stroke? A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background. Somatosensory input may lead to long-lasting cortical plasticity enhanced by motor recovery in patients with neurological impairments. Sensory transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) is a relatively risk-free and easy-to-implement modality for rehabilitation. Objective. The authors systematically examine the effects of sensory TENS on motor recovery after stroke. Methods. Eligible randomized or quasi-randomized trials were identified via searches of computerized databases. Two assessors reviewed independently the eligibility and methodological quality of the retrieved articles. Results. In all, 15 articles satisfied the inclusion criteria. Methodological quality was generally good, with a mean (standard deviation) PEDro score of 6.7/10 (1.2). Although the majority of studies reported significant effects on at least 1 outcome measure, effect sizes were generally small. Meta-analysis could not be performed for the majority of outcome measures because of variability between studies and insufficient data. A moderate effect was determined for force production of the ankle dorsiflexors and for the Timed Up and Go test. Conclusions. Sensory stimulation via TENS may be beneficial to enhance aspects of motor recovery following a stroke, particularly when used in combination with active training. Because of the great variability between studies, particularly in terms of the timing of the intervention after the stroke, the outcome measures used, and the stimulation protocols, insufficient data are available to provide guidelines about strategies and efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-809
Number of pages11
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • motor recovery
  • sensory
  • somatosensory
  • stroke rehabilitation
  • transcutaneous electrical stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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