Background: Due to the limitations of pharmacological and surgical management of knee osteoarthritis (OA), several non-pharmacologic approaches including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) have been introduced, with promising results.
Objective: We aimed to investigate and compare the therapeutic effects of TENS and tDCS for the treatment of patients with knee OA.
Methods: In this double-blinded randomized controlled trial, a total of 40 adult patients with knee OA were randomly allocated to either the TENS or the tDCS group. Patients in either group received 6 sessions of the TENS or tDCS for 2 weeks. Knee strengthening exercises were performed twice daily for the entire treatment period. Patients were evaluated using the visual analogue scale (VAS) and Western Ontario and McMaster Universities (WOMAC).
Results: Significant improvement was observed in all outcomes in both TENS and tDCS groups at each follow up compared to baseline although the early improvement (first follow-up) in the WOMAC index was not significant in the TENS group. Based on the within-subject analysis, the behavior of two treatment groups did not differ regarding the changes in the course of the VAS, WOMAC score and its subscales, i.e. stiffness, pain and function (p = 0.263, 0.051, 0.198, 0.075, and 0.146, respectively).
Conclusions: Based on the results of this study, the effect of tDCS and TENS was not significantly different on pain and function of patients with knee OA.
Keywords: Exercise; Knee osteoarthritis; Transcranial direct current stimulation; Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation; VAS; WOMAC.
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