TENS to treat latent myofascial trigger points

Myofascial trigger points may cause joint pain, headaches, and other kinds of pain so severe that it doesn’t respond well to painkillers.

Researchers at CEU-San Pablo University, in Madrid, Spain, assessed the response to burst application of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

First, the details.

  • 76 patients were randomly divided into 2 groups
    • TENS group received a burst-type TENS (pulse width, 200 mcs; frequency, 100 Hz; burst frequency, 2 Hz) stimulation over the upper trapezius for 10 minutes.
    • Placebo group received a sham-TENS application.
  • The trapezius muscle spans the neck, shoulders, and back.
  • Referred pressure pain threshold over myofascial trigger points and cervical range of motion in rotation were assessed before, and 1 and 5 minutes after the treatment.
  • The evaluator was not aware of the treatment given — single blind.

And, the results.

  • The TENS group experienced a significantly greater increase in referred pressure pain threshold and cervical rotation vs the control group.
  • Differences between treatments were small at 1 and 5 minutes after treatment.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “A 10-minute application of burst-type TENS increases in a small but statistically significant manner the referred pressure pain threshold over upper trapezius latent myofascial trigger points and the ipsilateral cervical range of motion.”

10/9/11 23:46 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.