Pain treatments have historically centered on drugs, but an "opioid crisis" has necessitated new standards of care, with a paradigm shift towards multi-modal pain management emphasizing early movement, non-narcotics, and various adjunctive therapies. Electrotherapies remain understudied and most lack high-quality clinical trials, despite a desperate need for effective adjunctive options. A systematic search of human clinical studies on H-Wave® device stimulation (HWDS) was conducted as well as a comprehensive review of articles articulating possible HWDS mechanisms of action. Studies unrelated to H-Wave were excluded. Data synthesis summarizes outcomes and study designs, categorized as pre-clinical or clinical. Pre-clinical studies demonstrated that HWDS utilizes a biphasic waveform to induce non-fatiguing muscle contractions which positively affect nerve function, blood and lymph flow. Multiple clinical studies have reported significant benefits for diabetic and non-specific neuropathic pain, where function also improved, and pain medication usage substantially dropped. In conclusion, low- to moderate-quality HWDS studies have reported reduced pain, restored functionality, and lower medication use in a variety of disorders, although higher-quality research is needed to verify condition-specific applicability. HWDS has enough reasonable evidence to be considered as an adjunctive component of non-opioid multi-modal pain management, given its excellent safety profile and relative low cost. Level of Evidence: III.
Keywords: H-Wave; analgesia; electrotherapy; neurogenic; neuromuscular stimulation; pain.