Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) reduces hyperalgesia and pain. Both low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) TENS, delivered at the same intensity (90% motor threshold [MT]) daily, result in analgesic tolerance with repeated use by the fifth day of treatment. The current study tested 1) whether increasing intensity by 10% per day prevents the development of tolerance to repeated TENS; and 2) whether lower intensity TENS (50% MT) produces an equivalent reduction in hyperalgesia when compared to 90% MT TENS. Sprague-Dawley rats with unilateral knee joint inflammation (3% carrageenan) were separated according to the intensity of TENS used: sham, 50% LF, 50% HF, 90% LF, 90% HF, and increased intensity by 10% per day (LF and HF). The reduced mechanical withdrawal threshold following the induction of inflammation was reversed by application of TENS applied at 90% MT intensity and increasing intensity for the first 4 days. On the fifth day, the groups that received 90% MT intensity showed tolerance. Nevertheless, the group that received an increased intensity on each day still showed a reversal of the mechanical withdrawal threshold with TENS. These results show that the development of tolerance can be delayed by increasing intensity of TENS.
Perspective: Our results showed that increasing intensity in both frequencies of TENS was able to prevent analgesic tolerance. Results from this study suggest that increasing intensities could be a clinical method to prevent analgesic tolerance and contribute to the effective use of TENS in reducing inflammatory pain and future clinical trials.
Copyright © 2012 American Pain Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.