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Papers of the Week

Papers: 19 Feb 2022 - 25 Feb 2022


Front Neurosci


Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation in Rodent Models of Neuropathic Pain: A Meta-Analysis.


Huang J, Yang C, Zhao K, Zhao Z, Chen Y, Wang T, Qu Y
Front Neurosci. 2022; 16:831413.
PMID: 35173577.


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a non-invasive therapeutic intervention that is typically used for many years to treat chronic pain in patients who are refractory to pain medications. However, evidence of the efficacy of TENS treatment for neuropathic pain is lacking in humans. To further understand the efficacy of TENS under various intervention conditions and illuminate the current circumstance and future research directions, we systematically reviewed animal studies investigating the efficacy of TENS in relieving pain in neuropathic pain rodent models. We searched the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE (via PubMed), and Web of Science and identified 11 studies. Two meta-analyses were performed. The first meta-analysis showed that a single TENS treatment was capable of temporarily ameliorating neuropathic pain when compared to control groups with a significant effect (standardized mean difference: 1.54; 95% CI: 0.65, 2.42; = 0.0007; = 58%). Significant temporary alleviation in neuropathic pain intensity was also observed in the meta-analysis of repetitive TENS (standardized mean difference: 0.85; 95% CI: 0.31, 1.40; = 0.002; = 75%). Subgroup analysis showed no effect of the timing of the application of TENS (test for subgroup difference, = 0.47). Leave-one-out sensitivity analyses suggested that no single study had an outsized effect on the pooled estimates, which may partly prove the robustness of these findings. Other stratified analyses were prevented by the insufficient number of included studies. Overall, current data suggest that TENS might be a promising therapy to ameliorate neuropathic pain. However, the high risk of bias in the included studies suggests that cautions must be considered when interpreting these findings and it is not reasonable to directly generalize the results obtained from animal studies to clinical practice. Future studies should pay more attention to improving the quality of study design and reporting, thereby facilitating the understanding of mechanisms underlying TENS treatment, reducing more potentially unsuccessful clinical trials, and optimizing the efficacy of TENS for people with neuropathic pain.