To determine the immediate effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) on heart rate, systolic blood pressure (SBP), and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) in apparently healthy adults (age ≥18y).
The Cochrane Library (online version 2014), PubMed (1962–2014), EMBASE (1980–2014), and LILACS (1980–2014) electronic databases were searched.
Randomized controlled trials were included when TENS was administered noninvasively with surface electrodes during rest, and the effect of TENS was compared with that of control or placebo TENS. A sensitive search strategy for identifying randomized controlled trials was used by 2 independent reviewers. The initial search led to the identification of 432 studies, of which 5 articles met the eligibility criteria.
Two independent reviewers extracted data from the selected studies. Quality was evaluated using the PEDro scale. Mean differences or standardized mean differences in outcomes were calculated.
Five eligible articles involved a total of 142 apparently healthy individuals. Four studies used high-frequency TENS and 3 used low-frequency TENS and evaluated the effect on SBP. Three studies using high-frequency TENS and 2 using low-frequency TENS evaluated the effect on DBP. Three studies using high-frequency TENS and 1 study using low-frequency TENS evaluated the effect on heart rate. A statistically significant reduction in SBP (−3.00mmHg; 95% confidence interval [CI], −5.02 to −0.98; P=.004) was found using low-frequency TENS. A statistically significant reduction in DBP (−1.04mmHg; 95% CI, −2.77 to −0.03; I2=61%; P=.04) and in heart rate (−2.55beats/min; 95% CI, −4.31 to −0.78; I2=86%; P=.005]) was found using both frequencies. The median value on the PEDro scale was 7 (range, 4–8).
TENS seems to promote a discrete reduction in SBP, DBP, and heart rate in apparently healthy individuals.
List of abbreviations:CI (confidence interval), DBP (diastolic blood pressure), RCT (randomized controlled trial), SBP (systolic blood pressure), TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
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Published online: September 15, 2015
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© 2015 The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.