Objective To investigate the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) at local or distant acupuncture points in a rat model of the third lumbar vertebrae transverse process syndrome.
Methods Forty Sprague–Dawley rats were randomly divided into control, model, model plus local acupuncture point stimulation at BL23 (model+LAS) and model plus distant acupuncture point stimulation at ST36 (model+DAS) groups. All rats except controls underwent surgical third lumbar vertebrae transverse process syndrome modelling on day 2. Thereafter, rats in the model+LAS and model+DAS groups were treated daily with TENS for a total of six treatments (2/100 Hz, 30 min/day) from day 16 to day 29. Thermal pain thresholds were measured once a week during treatment and were continued until day 57, when local muscle tissue was sampled for RT-PCR and histopathological examination after haematoxylin and eosin staining. mRNA expression of interleukin-1 β (IL-1β), tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) was determined.
Results Thermal pain thresholds of all model rats decreased relative to the control group. Both LAS and DAS significantly increased the thermal pain threshold at all but one point during the treatment period. Histopathological assessment revealed that the local muscle tissues around the third lumbar vertebrae transverse process recovered to some degree in both the model+LAS and model+DAS groups; however, LAS appeared to have a greater effect. mRNA expression of IL-1β, TNF-α and iNOS in the local muscle tissues was increased after modelling and attenuated in both model+LAS and model+DAS groups. The beneficial effect was greater after LAS than after DAS.
Conclusions TENS at both local (BL23) and distant (ST36) acupuncture points had a pain-relieving effect in rats with the third lumbar vertebrae transverse process syndrome, and LAS appeared to have greater anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects than DAS.
Trial registration number 09073.
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