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Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation May Offer Dramatic Short-Term Relief For Chronic Back Pain

DALLAS - March 3, 1999 - A recently developed electro-analgesia technique may offer new hope to patients who suffer from chronic, debilitating back pain, according to researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

In the March 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), UT Southwestern scientists detail their findings that Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (PENS), a technique that involves insertion of acupuncture-like needles into the soft tissue and muscle surrounding bones, produced significant acute pain relief. During the procedure, a small electrical current is passed through the needles.

PENS reduces the need for analgesic medications and may decrease the need for other more invasive procedures, such as surgery and spinal-cord stimulation, by becoming part of an interdisciplinary approach to treating chronic back pain, said Dr. Paul White, professor of anesthesiology and pain management and member of the Eugene McDermott Center for Pain Management.

The randomized, sham-controlled study, which involved 60 healthy patients with severe lower back pain, compared the effectiveness of PENS to that of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and flexion-extension exercise therapies, two other commonly used pain-relief methods. According to pre- and post-treatment assessments that evaluated patients for discomfort, physical activity and quality of sleep, PENS was significantly more effective in decreasing pain scores after each treatment than the other methods. Following a series of 12 PENS treatments, patients also reported increased physical activity and improved sleep.

The primary goal was to improve the quality of life for these patients, many of whom have suffered from debilitating pain for years, said Dr. Robert Gatchel, professor psychiatry at UT Southwestern. The researchers said that, while PENS is designed to complement, not eliminate, other pain-management techniques, they found patients
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Contact: Ann Harrell or Bridgette Rose McNeill
ann.harrell@email.swmed.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
3-Mar-1999


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