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Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for the relief of pain
  1. John W Thompson
  1. Honorary Consultant in Medical Studies and Honorary Physician, St Oswald’s Hospice, Regent’s Avenue, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 1EE


    Electroanalgesia has been practised since ancient times, but had not gained widespread popularity with patients until the advent of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators in the 1970s. These electrical stimulator units have now been developed into highly effective relievers of pain, offering significant long term benefit to around 40% of chronic pain sufferers. A number of variations to the units have been designed to improve the efficacy of stimulation, however there remain 3 basic forms: continuous, pulsed and acupuncture-like. Before rejecting the method as ineffective for any patient, it is important to have an adequate trial of treatment of at least a fortnight during which all forms of available stimulation are tried, with electrodes placed in a variety of positions on the skin for a minimum of an hour at a time. Failure is generally due to lack of perseverence or unrealistic expectations.

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