Knowledge Base

Electro-Magnetic Stimulation

What is Electro-Magnetic Stimulation?

Electro-magnetic stimulation, including transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS), is the modern-day extension of age-old practices in which the nerves of muscles are subjected to a variety of stimuli, including heat or massage.

How does it work?

Electro-magnetic stimulation can help by interfering with pain signals. This method can be applied over the skin or directly to the brain itself. Studies have shown some potential positive responses to the various forms of treatment, however, more research is required.

What kinds are there?

  • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS): This treatment uses small electrical pulses, delivered through the skin to nerve fibers, to cause changes in muscles (i.e., numbness or contractions). This, in turn, produces temporary pain relief. There is also evidence that TENS can activate subsets of peripheral nerve fibers that can block pain transmission at the spinal cord level. TENS has been shown to be successful as a supportive treatment for neuropathic pain. 
  • Peripheral nerve stimulation:  In peripheral nerve stimulation, electrodes are placed surgically on a carefully selected area of the body. The patient is then able to deliver an electrical current as needed to the affected area, using an antenna and transmitter.

Looking for information on more interventional treatments? See Spinal Cord Stimulation

Related evidence

Kılınç M, Livanelioğlu A, Yıldırım SA, Tan E. Effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in patients with peripheral and central neuropathic pain. J Rehabil Med. 2014 May;46(5):454-60. doi: 10.2340/16501977-1271.

Papuć E, Rejdak K. The role of neurostimulation in the treatment of neuropathic pain. Ann Agric Environ Med. 2013;Spec no. 1:14-7.

Leung A, Fallah A, Shukla S. Transcutaneous magnetic stimulation (TMS) in alleviating post-traumatic peripheral neuropathic pain States: a case series. Pain Med. 2014 Jul;15(7):1196-9. doi: 10.1111/pme.12426. Epub 2014 Mar 25.