The Plain Truth

The Plain Truth
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Friday, January 1, 2010

A pain therapy not advised for back

U.S. neurologists have issued new guidelines for transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation used to treat pain.

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation therapy applies a mild electrical current to the nerves through electrodes using a pocket-sized portable unit.

Members of the American Academy of Neurology in St. Paul, Minn., say research on the nerve stimulation therapy for chronic low-back pain has produced conflicting results. For the guideline, the authors reviewed all evidence for low-back pain lasting three months or longer. Acute lower-back pain was not studied.

"The strongest evidence showed that there is no benefit for people using transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation for chronic low-back pain," Dr. Richard Dubinsky of Kansas University Medical Center in Kansas City, who wrote the guideline, said in a statement.

"Doctors should use clinical judgment regarding transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation use for chronic low-back pain. People who are currently using transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation for their low-back pain should discuss these findings with their doctors."

The guidelines, published in the journal Neurology, also determined the nerve stimulation technique can be effective in treating diabetic nerve pain -- also called diabetic neuropathy -- but concluded more and better research is needed to compare it with other treatments for this type of pain.

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