Sensory transcutaneous electrical stimulation fails to decrease discomfort associated with neuromuscular electrical stimulation in healthy individuals

Yocheved Laufer, Hadas Tausher, Roy Esh, Alex R. Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Sensory transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is frequently used for pain modulation. Neuromuscular electrical stimulation used to induce strong muscle contractions is often limited by muscular discomfort and by discomfort associated with the electrical current. The objective of this study was to determine whether the application of TENS can reduce the discomfort associated with neuromuscular electrical stimulation, leading to stronger maximal electrically induced contractions. Design: In a double-blind randomized controlled trial, 24 young adults with no known impairment received a TENS and a sham treatment before and after the assessment of the maximal electrically induced contractions of the quadriceps muscle. Results: Sensory TENS had no significant effect on maximal electrically induced contractions (normalized to maximal voluntary isometric contractions), on current amplitude, on the discomfort associated with the muscle contraction, and on the discomfort associated with the current amplitude (the latter two rated using a numerical rating scale). The discomfort described as a pulling/tearing sensation of the muscle (mean [SD], 5.7 [1.6]) was significantly higher than the discomfort associated with the current amplitude (mean [SD], 4.6 [2.3]; P = 0.02). Conclusions: Sensory TENS was not effective in modulating the discomfort associated with neuromuscular electrical stimulation in individuals with no known impairment. During periods of maximal electrically induced contractions, the pulling sensation of the muscle is generally more disconcerting than the sensation of the electrical current. Further studies are necessary to determine the effect of different stimulation parameters in patients with pathologic conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-406
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Volume90
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011

Keywords

  • Force
  • Neuromuscular electrical stimulation
  • Pain
  • TENS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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