Would a TENS unit help improve fibromyalgia pain?
Answer From Jeffrey M. Thompson, M.D.
Possibly. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a therapy sometimes used to treat localized or regional pain. During TENS therapy, electrodes deliver electrical impulses to nearby nerve pathways — which can help control or relieve some types of pain.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain, sleep problems and fatigue.
Some research has shown that TENS therapy may be effective for reducing pain in people who have fibromyalgia, especially in combination with other treatments, such as exercise. However, these studies were small and the quality of the evidence was very low.
Exercise appears to be one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia, along with stress reduction and healthy sleep habits. Your doctor may also recommend cognitive behavioral therapy — working with a mental health professional to learn effective ways of thinking about and dealing with your condition.
Medications to relieve pain and improve sleep also can be helpful. Options may include medicines used to treat other disorders, such as antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs.
Nov. 15, 2019
Jeffrey M. Thompson, M.D.
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- Johnson MI, et al. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for fibromyalgia in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017. https://www.cochranelibrary.com. Accessed Aug. 7, 2019.
- Garcia AM, et al. Analgesic effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) in patients with fibromyalgia. Primary Care. In press. Accessed Aug. 7, 2019.
- Coutaux A. Non-pharmacological treatments for pain relief: TENS and acupuncture. Joint Bone Spine. 2017;84:657.
- Goldenberg DL. Treatment of fibromyalgia in adults not responsive to initial therapies. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 7, 2019.