Efficacy of electroacupuncture and TENS in the rehabilitation of chronic low back pain patients

Pain. 1986 Sep;26(3):277-290. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(86)90057-6.


Fifty-four patients treated in a 3-week inpatient rehabilitation program were randomly assigned to and accepted treatment with electroacupuncture (n = 17), TENS (low intensity transcutaneous nerve stimulation, n = 18), and TENS dead-battery (placebo, n = 18). Outcome measures included estimates of pain (on a Visual Analogue Scale) and disability by both physician and patient, physical measures of trunk strength and spine range of motion, as well as the patient's perceptions of the relative contribution of the education, exercise training, and the electrical stimulation. Analyses of variance were utilized to determine effects of treatment (electroacupuncture, TENS, placebo) across time (admission, discharge, and return) for the outcome measures. There were no significant differences between treatment groups with respect to their overall rehabilitation. All 3 treatment groups ranked the contribution of the education as being greater than the electrical stimulation. However, the electroacupuncture group consistently demonstrated greater improvement on the outcome measures than the other treatment groups. For the visual analogue scale measure of average pain, there was a statistical trend at the return visit suggesting that the acupuncture group was experiencing less pain.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adult
  • Back Pain / rehabilitation*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation*