Can electrical stimulation of the skin reduce pain?

Electrical stimulation

Leeds Metropolitan University

A safe non-invasive means of relieving pain is being tested at Leeds Metropolitan University.TENS or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is not new, devices can be bought for about £30, but the work at Leeds Met is uncovering who may benefit most from this non-drug means of pain relief.

Pain is a huge problem,’ says Mark Johnson of the Centre for Pain Research, Leeds Met. ‘7.8 million people suffer from chronic pain in the UK, far more than are affected by coronary heart disease.

TENS works by activating the body’s own pain relief system. An electrical pulse generator is used to stimulate nerves using pads attached to the skin. The nerves send messages to the spinal cord and this stops pain signals getting to the brain. ‘It is an artificial means of rubbing pain away,’ says Mark.

Researchers at Leeds Met are examining differences in response to TENS between men and women and between those from different ethnic backgrounds. Other research is focussing on amputees. ‘We are testing whether TENS can be used to trick your brain into thinking an artificial limb belongs to your body,’ says Mark.

Centre for Pain Research at Leeds Metropolitan University

British Pain Society

European Federation of IASP Chapters

International Association for the Study of Pain

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