Neuropathic pain is a type of pain caused by tissue damage and damage to a nerve. The damaged nerves send incorrect signals to the pain centers in the brain and can present as tingling, numbness, and burning sensations on the skin. This pain can be present at rest or be present with light touch or pressure. The source of nerves causing neuropathic pain can either be peripheral nerves, present in the arms, legs, feet and hands, or central nerves, such as the brain or spinal cord.
A recent study in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine evaluated the use of electrical stimulation administered via the skin on patients with neuropathic pain, and assessed it effectiveness in decreasing pain intensity and improving functional capacity. This form of electrical treatment via the skin is called TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. The study examined 40 patients, 20 with peripheral neuropathies and 20 with central neuropathies. The patients’ pain and functional capacity were quantified via several pain and function scales. Each group received twenty sessions of 30 minutes on the TENS unit over a 4 week period, and the pain and functional scores were reevaluated.
The results revealed significant decreases in pain in both the central and peripheral neuropathy groups. However, the peripheral neuropathy group experienced greater decreases in pain than the central neuropathy. Although more studies are required to further evaluate the efficacy of TENS therapy for neuropathic pain, the study suggests positive results for TENS as an adjunct treatment for central and peripheral neuropathic pain.
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