Document Type

Honors Thesis


A study was conducted using 10 participants and the effects of using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit to treat chronic lower back pain. Participants were required to have lower back pain for more than three months out of the year and the pain to be non-specific (could not be clinically diagnosed by a healthcare provider). The study focused on comparing the analgesic effects of applying TENS pads directly to the area of concern (Lower back/Gate-control) verses placing them on a kidney meridian point (Kidney meridian/Endogenous). To test this, participants were pseudorandomly placed into one of two categories: the Lower back/Gate-control (LBGC) or Kidney meridian/Endogenous opiate (KMEO) and given different parameters to set their TENS unit. During the first and last week of the study, participants filled out a PROMIS-29 v1.0 and Global Rate of Change Scale to measure patients’ subjective data. This data was collected and analyzed at the end of the third week. Both groups demonstrated some overall improvement with a reduction in pain, improvement of physical function, decrease in fatigue, and less pain interference; however, only the meridian group demonstrated a statistically significant decrease in pain intensity and fatigue. This suggested that placing the TENS pads on a meridian location and using an endogenous opiate setting rather than placing pads directly on the site of pain with a gate control setting, has a larger reduction in pain intensity and fatigue indicating a decreased perception in pain. Previous research by Chesterton and colleagues (2002; 2003) demonstrated that pad placement and TENS parameters matter. When placing the pads on the meridian and stimulating the body’s natural endogenous opiate mechanism, longer lasting pain relief was experienced. The results of our study supported the findings in Chesterton (2002; 2003) indicating that more effective TENS treatments are experienced when pad placement and parameters are experienced together. There were two limitations of our study including a small sample size and corrupted data for our physical range of motion measurements.

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