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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 4 (2007), Issue 1, Pages 65-75
Original Article

Repeated 100 Hz TENS for the Treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Hyperalgesia and Suppression of Spinal Release of Substance P in Monoarthritic Rats

1Neuroscience Research Institute, Department of Neurobiology Peking University, Key Laboratory of Neuroscience, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Public Health, Beijing 100083, China
2Department of Physiology and Neurobiology, Zhengzhou University Medical School, Zhengzhou 450052, China
3Department of Radiology, The Third Teaching Hospital, Peking University, Beijing, China

Received 18 January 2006; Accepted 25 July 2006

Copyright © 2007 Hong-Xiang Liu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) has been shown to be an effective measure for pain relief. The aim of the present study was to determine the optimal intensity and interval of repeated 100 Hz TENS for the treatment of chronic inflammatory hyperalgesia in a monoarthritic pain model of the rat, and to assess the changes of the spinal substance P (SP) release in response to TENS treatment. A reliable, reproducible chronic monoarthritic pain model was produced by intra-articular injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) at single ankle joint. The efficacy of 100 Hz TENS treatments with different frequencies and intensities was compared. In the acute period (within 3 weeks) of monoarthritis, twice-a-week schedule of TENS reduced the swelling of the inflamed ankle significantly. In the stable period (4–9 weeks), however, once-a-week schedule produced a significantly better therapeutic effect on both inflammation and arthritic hyperalgesia than that of twice- or five-times-a-week schedule. Using three levels of intensity of TENS, we found that the weaker (1-1-2 mA) stimulation produced significantly better therapeutic effects. Repeated TENS produced a reduction of SP content in spinal perfusate in parallel with the progressive reduction of the arthritic pain scores. Our results suggest that (i) consecutive TENS treatments produced cumulative effect for chronic hyperalgesia, (ii) for chronic inflammatory hyperalgesia, a weaker intensity and more sparsely arranged treatment schedule may produce better therapeutic effect and (iii) a decrease in SP release may serve as one of the possible neurochemical mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of multiple TENS treatments on chronic inflammatory hyperalgesia.