Objective: To determine if transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) is efficacious in the treatment of pain in neurologic disorders.
Methods: We performed a systematic literature search of Medline and the Cochrane Library from inception to April 2009.
Results: There are conflicting reports of TENS compared to sham TENS in the treatment of chronic low back pain, with 2 Class II studies showing benefit, but 2 Class I studies and another Class II study not showing benefit. Because the Class I studies are stronger evidence, TENS is established as ineffective for the treatment of chronic low back pain (2 Class I studies). TENS is probably effective in treating painful diabetic neuropathy (2 Class II studies).
Recommendations: Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) is not recommended for the treatment of chronic low back pain (Level A). TENS should be considered in the treatment of painful diabetic neuropathy (Level B). Further research into the mechanism of action of TENS is needed, as well as more rigorous studies for determination of efficacy.