fibromyalgia syndrome

Nerve Stimulation Can Reduce Fibromyalgia Pain in Women

Using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) during activity can reduce movement‐evoked pain among women with fibromyalgia, according to results of a study.1

“TENS is available over the counter, is inexpensive, and is safe and easy to use,” said senior study author Kathleen A. Sluka, PT, PhD, FAPTA, a professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science at the University of Iowa, said in a press release published January 6, 2020.2 “It can provide a self-management option for people with chronic pain, particularly fibromyalgia, to provide an additional level of pain relief.”


Vasculitis Presenting as Calf Pain With Muscle-Limited Involvement

Quiz: Osteonecrosis

To reach this conclusion, the researchers randomly assigned participants to receive active‐TENS (n=103), placebo‐TENS (n=99), or no‐TENS (n=99) at home for 2 hours a day during activity for 4 weeks.

In addition to their standard fibromyalgia treatment, the participants were instructed to apply TENS to their lumbar and cervicothoracic regions using a modulated frequency (2‐125 Hz) at the highest tolerable intensity. During the TENS application, the participants rated their movement‐evoked pain and fatigue on an 11‐point scale. These scores were compared with the scores the participants gave before the TENS application.

After 4 weeks, the active‐TENS group reported a greater reduction in movement‐evoked pain and fatigue than the placebo‐TENS and no‐TENS groups. 

Improvement on the global impression of change was also reported by a greater percentage of those in the active‐TENS group (70%) than by of those in the placebo‐TENS group (31%) or no‐TENS group (9%).

There were no TENS‐related serious adverse events (AEs), and less than 5% of the participants experienced minor AEs from TENS.

“Among women with fibromyalgia and stable medication, 4 weeks of active‐TENS use compared with placebo‐TENS or no‐TENS resulted in a significant improvement in movement‐evoked pain and other clinical outcomes,” the researchers concluded. “Further research is needed to examine effectiveness in a real world, pragmatic setting to establish clinical importance of these findings.”

—Colleen Murphy


  1. Dailey DL, Vance CGT, Rakel BA, et al. A randomized controlled trial of TENS for movement‐evoked pain in women with fibromyalgia [published online November 18, 2019]. Arthritis Rheumatol. doi:10.1002/art.41170.
  2. Nerve stimulation may benefit women with fibromyalgia [press release]. Wiley; January 6, 2020. Accessed January 7, 2020.