Pain relief in women with fibromyalgia: a cross-over study of superficial warmth stimulation and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation

J Rehabil Med. 2009 Jun;41(7):557-62. doi: 10.2340/16501977-0371.


Objective: To compare the effects of portable superficial warmth with transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation on pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

Methods: The study had a randomized cross-over design. A total of 32 patients with fibromyalgia were randomly assigned to 2 groups. After instruction, the patients treated themselves using a portable device providing superficial warmth (42 degrees C) or a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation apparatus. After 3 weeks the patients switched therapy. The patients rated pain intensity on a 0-100 numerical rating scale before and after each treatment. After 6 weeks, patients were questioned concerning therapy preference.

Results: There was no difference in level of pain relief when comparing the 2 treatment modes. Median pain intensity in patients using warmth therapy decreased from 77.5 on the numerical rating scale before treatment to 62.5 after treatment and in patients using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation from 80 to 62.5. Ten patients reported a reduction of 20 units or more on the numerical rating scale after warmth therapy, as did 10 after transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. Seventeen of 32 patients preferred warmth therapy and 10 preferred transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

Conclusion: Sensory stimulation with superficial warmth or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation yielded comparable temporary pain reduction in patients with fibromyalgia. Both procedures are self-administered, safe and in-expensive.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / rehabilitation
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Hot Temperature / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Self Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation*
  • Treatment Outcome