Couldn't find what you looking for?


Table of Contents

Many people who suffer from acute and chronic pain syndromes look for an efficient solution to alleviate pain without consuming pain killers. Nerve stimulation pain management therapy is one of newer approaches that can help in many cases of chronic pain.

Everyone experiences pain at one or the other time in life. Pain is a normal body response to an injury or physiological malfunction caused by an illness. Both acute and chronic pain can often be effectively treated with usual pain medications. But excruciating chronic pain that does not respond to pain killers tests the physical and mental limits of the sufferer. A patient who experiences such pain would be ready to undertake any available treatments to get a relief.

What is the difference between an acute pain and a chronic pain?

Any pain that originates suddenly is called an acute pain. It is usually caused by an injury and it does not last long. It subsides with time when the injury heals. All that is required is a pain medication if the pain is unbearable. But the case of a chronic pain, the one which lasts for more than 3-6 months, is different. It is usually connected to diseases and disorders like diabetes, cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia etc. In a minority of cases, no definite cause can be figured out.

In case of a chronic pain, it is crucial that the underlying disease that causes the pain is identified and appropriately treated.

It can be challenging to treat pain that is refractory to the usual pain medications and that reappears after the medications are stopped. 

A basic understanding of the mechanism of pain perception and the gate-control theory

The feeling of pain is originally generated in pain receptors, specific neural structures located everywhere in the body. To be felt as pain, the signals from these receptors has to be sent to the brain via special pain fibers. There are generally two types of pain fibers – A and C. A fiber, transmit fast and sharp pain signals while the C fibers conduct slow and diffuse pain signals. The A fibers also carry other non-noxious sensations like touch to the brain. All these sensory nerve fibers are connected to specific neurons in the spinal cord from where the signals are transmitted through neuronal pathways to the relevant parts of the brain and are thus perceived and interpreted.

It is well known that the intensity of pain perception is influenced by emotions.

See Also: Topical Pain Relievers: Which Work And Which Are Not Worth The Money

This has a scientific background. The gate-control theory, developed by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall in 1960s, explains the mechanism by which emotions and thoughts affect pain perception. According to this theory, a neurological gate in the spinal cord operates to block the pain signals carried by some nerve fibers while allowing those carried by the others. When there is a large amount of pain stimuli, the gate opens for these signals and they reach the brain. The sensory fibers that carry sensations other than pain are faster than the pain fibers in signal transmission. When a large amount of these sensory stimuli reach the synaptic cells, the gate is closed for pain signal transmission and hence pain is not perceived.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Nizard J, Raoul S, Nguyen JP, Lefaucheur JP. Invasive stimulation therapies for the treatment of refractory pain. Discov Med. 2012 Oct, 14 (77): 237-46
  • Zabara J, Barrett BT, Parnis SM. "Nerve stimulation as a treatment for pain." U.S. Patent No. 6,721,603. 13 Apr. 2004
  • Sluka KA, Walsh D. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation: Basic science mechanisms and clinical effectiveness. J Pain. 2003 Apr, 4(3): 109-21
  • Nnoaham KE, Kumbang J. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for chronic pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jul 16, CD003222
  • Rutjes AW, Nuesch E, Sterchi R, Kalichman L et al. Transcutaneous electrostimulation for osteoarthritis of the knee. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Oct 7, (4): CD002823
  • Hurlow A, Bennett MI, Robb KA, Johnson MI, Simpson KH, Oxberry SG. Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) for cancer pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14, 3: CD006276
  • Stein C, Eibel B, Sbruzzi G, Lago PD, Plentz Rd. Electrical stimulation and electromagnetic field use in patients with diabetic neuropathy: systematic review and meta-analysis. Braz J Phys Ther. 2013 Mar-Apr, 17(2): 93-104
  • Rakel B, Frantz R. Effectiveness of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation on postoperative pain with movement. J Pain. 2003 Oct, 4(8): 455-64
  • Carbonario F, Matsutani LA, Yuan SL, Marques AP. Effectiveness of high-frequency transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation at tender points as adjuvant therapy for patients with fibromyalgia. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2013 Apr, 49(2): 197-204
  • Hesham E, Ahmed MD, Paul F et al. Use of Percutaneous Electrical nerve Stimulation (PENS) in the Short-term Management of Headache. Headache. 2000 April, 40(4): 311-5
  • Allais G, de Lorenzo C, Quirico PE, Lupi G, Airola G, Mana O, Benedetto C. Non-pharmacological approaches to chronic headaches: transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, lasertherapy and acupuncture in transformed migraine treatment. Neurological Sciences. 2003 May, 24(2): s138-s142
  • Ng MM, Leung MC, Poon DM. the Effects of Electro-Acupuncture and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Patients with Painful Osteoarthritic Knees: A Randomised Controlled trial with Follow-up Evaluation. Alternative Complementary Med. 2004 Jul 5, 9(5): 641-9
  • Keskin EA, Onur O, Keskin HL, Gumus II, Kafali H, Turhan N. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation improves low back pain during pregnancy. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2012, 74(1): 76-83
  • Kaplan B, Rabinerson D, Lurie S, Bar J, Krieser UR, Neri A. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for adjuvant pain-relief during labor and delivery. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 1998 Mar,60(3): 251-5
  • Khadilkar A, Odebiyi DO, Brosseau L, Wells GA. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) versus placebo for chronic low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8, (4): CD003008
  • Robb KA, Bennett MI, Johnson MI, Simpson KJ, Oxberry SG. Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) for cancer pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008, (4): CD006276.
  • Photo courtesy of Roger Mommaerts by Flickr :
  • Photo courtesy of Yeza by Wikimedia Commons :