Using TENS to increase the effectiveness of exercise after stroke

tens7000Researchers from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University report benefit in hemiparetic (weakness on one side of the body) stroke survivors.

The American Physical Therapy Association defines TENS — transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation — as application of electrical current through the skin for pain control.

First, the details.

  • 109 hemiparetic stroke survivors were assigned randomly to a treatment group for 5 days a week for 4 weeks.
    • TENS: 60 minutes of electrical stimulation
    • TENS + 60 minutes of exercise
    • Placebo stimulation for 60 minutes + exercise
    • Control group: No active treatment
  • Comfortable gait speed was measured using a GAITRite II walkway system.
  • Walking endurance and functional mobility were measured by the distance covered during a 6-minute walk test (6MWT) and by timed up and go test scores before treatment, after 2 and 4 weeks of treatment, and 4 weeks after treatment ended.

And, the results.

  • Only the combined TENS + exercise group showed significantly greater absolute and percentage increases in gait velocity and reduction in timed up and go scores from week 2 onwards.
  • Compared to the control and TENS groups, only the combined TENS + exercise group covered significantly more distance in the 6MWT from week 2 onwards.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “TENS can improve the effectiveness of task-related exercise for increasing walking capacity in hemiparetic stroke survivors.”

11/16/09 20:51 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.