Electrical Treatment May Help Women with Fibromyalgia

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatment could help relieve symptoms in female fibromyalgia patients, according to new findings. 

Researchers evaluated women aged 18-70 years who met American College of Rheumatology (ACR) fibromyalgia criteria and reported pain ≥ four on a 10-point scale. Patients were randomized to receive active TENS (n = 103), placebo TENS (n = 99), or no TENS treatment (n = 99). The active TENS group received TENS on the upper and lower back at 200μsec pulse duration. Placebo TENS patients received the same treatment as active TENS did but received 45 seconds of electrical current with a ramp to zero in the last 15 seconds. No TENS patients wore a non-active unit during testing. Patients used TENS for at least two hours every day during activity for one month and reported pain and fatigue during TENS application. 

After one month, active TENS patients had a mean 1.82 (95% CI: 2.39-1.25) reduction in activity-induced pain, significantly greater than the placebo TENS (0.85, 95% CI: 1.43-0.27; P = 0.01) and no TENS (0, 0.56 – +0.41; P < 0.01) patients. Activity-induced fatigue went down by a mean 1.53, also much greater than reductions in the placebo TENS (0.08, 0.79-0.63; P < 0.01) and no TENS (+0.35, 0.34 – +1.04; P < 0.01) groups. Active TENS patients also had large improvements in resting pain, brief pain inventory (BPI) interference, and multidimensional assessment of fatigue (MAF), and their fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (FIQR) improved by a mean of 8.48—a significant difference compared with the no TENS group (1.39, 4.40- +1.62; P < 0.001). In the active TENS group, 70% of patients saw improvement, compared with 31% for the placebo TENS and 9% for the no TENS patients (< 0.001). 

The study’s results were presented at the 2018 ACR meeting. 

“As a safe, inexpensive, home based-treatment, TENS may be included as part of the management strategy for women with [fibromyalgia],” the researchers wrote. 

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Sources: American College of Rheumatology