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Therapy Found Ineffective for Chronic Low Back Pain

Last Updated: December 31, 2009.

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation is not recommended for treating chronic low back pain, though it appears effective in treating the pain of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, according to an American Academy of Neurology guideline published online Dec. 30 in Neurology.

THURSDAY, Dec. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) is not recommended for treating chronic low back pain, though it appears effective in treating the pain of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, according to an American Academy of Neurology guideline published online Dec. 30 in Neurology.

Richard M. Dubinsky, M.D., of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, and Janis Miyasaki, M.D., of the Toronto Western Hospital, analyzed data from 11 clinical trials comparing TENS to placebo or another treatment.

The authors note that, for chronic low back pain, two Class I studies found no benefit, and two of three Class II studies showed a modest benefit, while the third found none. As a result, the authors found TENS ineffective for this condition. However, based on two Class II studies, TENS was found to be "probably effective" in treating pain from diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

"This updated evidence-based review is valuable in providing the limits of our evidence base. Nevertheless, it is not unreasonable to take a practical position that, in spite of the relatively weak scientific and clinical evidence, TENS still represents a valuable therapeutic alternative in neurologic pain disorders. Taking the favorable benefit-risk ratio when compared with other pain relieving methods into account, TENS remains a valuable part in the armamentarium of pain therapy," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

The study and editorial authors reported relationships with a number of companies, associations, and journals.

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