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Vol. 22. Issue 5.
Pages 347-354 (01 September 2018)
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Vol. 22. Issue 5.
Pages 347-354 (01 September 2018)
Systematic Review
DOI: 10.1016/j.bjpt.2017.12.005
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and interferential current demonstrate similar effects in relieving acute and chronic pain: a systematic review with meta-analysis
Camila Cadena de Almeidaa, Vinicius Z. Maldaner da Silvab, Gerson Cipriano Júniorc, Richard Eloin Liebanod, Joao Luiz Quagliotti Duriganc,
Corresponding author

Corresponding author at: Universdade de Brasilia, Centro Metropolitano, Conjunto A, lote 01, CEP: 72220-900, Brasília, DF, Brazil.
a Physical Therapy Division, Brasília, DF, Brazil
b Physical Therapy Division, Instituto Hospital de Base do Distrito federal e Escola Superior de Ciências da Saúde (ESCS), Brasilia, DF, Brazil
c Rehabilitation Sciences Program, Physical Therapy Division, Universdade de Brasilia UnB, Brasília, DF, Brazil
d Department of Physical Therapy, Universidade Federal de São Carlos UFSCar, São Carlos, SP, Brazil

  • Both TENS and IFC have been indicated to reduce pain intensity.

  • TENS and IFC have similar effects on pain intensity.

  • Physical therapists could choose either TENS or IFC and expect similar treatment effects.

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Tables (2)
Table 1. Studies characteristics. Abbreviations: TENS, transcutaneous electrical stimulation; IFC, interferential current therapy; VAS, visual analog scale; WOMAC, Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index; RMQ, Rolland Morris Questionnaire.
Table 2. Methodological quality of the included articles (PEDro scale).
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Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and interferential current have been widely used in clinical practice. However, a systematic review comparing their effects on pain relief has not yet been performed.


To investigate the effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and interferential current on acute and chronic pain.


We use Pubmed, Embase, LILACS, PEDro and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials as data sources. Two independent reviewers that selected studies according to inclusion criteria, extracted information of interest and verified the methodological quality of the studies made study selection. The studies were selected if transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and interferential current were used as treatment and they had pain as the main outcome, as evaluated by a visual analog scale. Secondary outcomes were the Western Ontario Macmaster and Rolland Morris Disability questionnaires, which were added after data extraction.


Eight studies with a pooled sample of 825 patients were included. The methodological quality of the selected studies was moderate, with an average of six on a 0–10 scale (PEDro). In general, both transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and interferential current improved pain and functional outcomes without a statistical difference between them.


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation and interferential current have similar effects on pain outcome The low number of studies included in this meta-analysis indicates that new clinical trials are needed.

Electric stimulation therapy
Physical therapy
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation


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