Long-term transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) use: Impact on medication and physical therapy utilization and costs

C. Chabal, D. Fishbain, M. Weaver, Wipperman Heine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: A previous study reported that 74% of patients prescribed TENS were still using TENS at 6 months (1). These long-term TENS users reported less interference from pain with work, home, and social activities, increased physical activity and decreased use of pain medications and pain related therapies. As a follow-up to this initial study, the present study was conducted to more closely examine a variety of treatment outcomes, especially costs, in long-term users of TENS who suffer from chronic pain. Key components of the study examined the effects of long-term TENS therapy on pain related medications and physical therapy (PT) utilization and costs. Methods: From a population of 2003 chronic pain patients who acquired a TENs device (Epix XL(r), Empi Inc., St. Paul, MN) for pain management, a randomly-selected sample of 376 patients who used TENS were interviewed by telephone by an independent research firm, the survey assessed a variety of outcome variables including changes in medication use, number of pain-related medications, and use of PT prior to TENS and after a minimum of six months of TENS treatment. The data were subjected to a paired t-test analysis. A cost simulation model was then applied to the medication and PT data. Results: The mean duration of pain, for which TENS was prescribed, was 40 ±6 months. As compared with the period prior to TENS use, this long-term TENS user group reported a statistically significant reduction in the following types of pain medications: opiate analgesics, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, NSAIDS and steroids. PT use was also significantly reduced. Cost simulations of pain medications and PT are presented. Conclusions: Long-term use of TENS is associated with a significant reduction in the utilization of pain medications and PT. Cost simulations of medication and PT indicate that with the long-term TENS use, costs can be reduced up to 55% for medications and up to 69% for PT. These TENS associated improvements, when combined with reduced complications and costs, are important points that clinicians must consider when constructing a treatment plan for chronic pain patients. References:.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages1
JournalRegional Anesthesia
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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