Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation improves walking performance in patients with intermittent claudication

Chris Seenan, Steve McSwiggan, Patricia Roche, Chee-Wee Tan, Tom Mercer, Jill Belch

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9 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of two types of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) on walking distance and measures of pain in patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) and Intermittent Claudication (IC). In a phase 2a study, forty participants with PAD and IC completed a graded treadmill test on two separate testing occasions. Active TENS was applied to the lower limb on the first occasion and placebo TENS on the second. Participants were divided into two experimental groups. One group received High-Frequency TENS (HF-TENS), the other Low-Frequency TENS (LF-TENS). Measures taken were: Initial Claudication Distance (ICD), Functional Claudication Distance (FCD) and Absolute Claudication Distance (ACD). The McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ) vocabulary was completed at the end of the intervention and the MPQ-Pain Rating Index (PRI) score calculated. Four participants were excluded from the final analysis due to non-completion of the experimental procedure. Median walking distance increased with HF-TENS for all measures (p < .05, Wilcoxon signed ranks test, all measures). Only ACD increased significantly with LF-TENS compared to placebo (Mdn = 179 to 228, Ws = 39, z = 2.025, p = 0.043, r = 0.48). No difference was observed between reported median MPQ-PRI scores: 21.5 with placebo TENS and 21.5 with active TENS (p = .41). TENS applied to the lower limb of patients with PAD and IC was associated with increased walking distance on a treadmill but not with any reduction in pain. TENS may be a useful adjunctive intervention to help increase walking performance in patients with IC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323–330
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • physiotherapy
  • walking distance
  • transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • ischemic pain
  • exercise therapy
  • peripheral arterial disease
  • intermittent claudication


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