Lack of effect of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation upon experimentally induced delayed onset muscle soreness in humans

Pain. 1996 Oct;67(2-3):285-9. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(96)03124-7.


The aim of the current study, for which ethical approval was obtained, was to assess the hypoalgesic efficacy of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) upon acute stage (72 h) experimentally induced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). TENS naive subjects (n = 48; 24 male and 24 female) were recruited, screened for relevant pathology and randomly allocated to one of four experimental groups: control, placebo, low TENS (200 microseconds; 4 Hz) or high TENS group (200 microseconds; 110 Hz). DOMS was induced in a standardised fashion in the non-dominant elbow flexors of all subjects by repeated eccentric exercise. Subjects attended on three consecutive days for treatment and measurement of elbow flexion, extension and resting angle (Universal goniometer), Mechanical Pain Threshold/tenderness (algometer) and pain (Visual Analogue Scale (VAS)) on a daily basis, plus McGill Pain Questionnaire on the third day only. Measurements were taken before and after treatment under controlled double blinded conditions. Analysis of results using repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) and post hoc tests showed some inconsistent isolated effects of high TENS (110 Hz) compared to the other conditions upon resting angle and flexion scores; no significant effects were found for any of the other variables. These results provide no convincing evidence for any measurable hypoalgesic effects of TENS upon DOMS-associated pain at the stimulation parameters used here.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscular Diseases / therapy*
  • Pain
  • Pain Measurement
  • Palliative Care*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Treatment Failure