Stimulation of the peripheral nervous system for pain control.

D. M. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Transcutaneous stimulation is a proven effective way to relieve pain. Its optimal use requires an accurate patient diagnosis. Treatment of pain as a symptom only is likely to fail. There must be a careful psychosocial evaluation, for the majority of patients who come to the doctor complaining of pain have major psychological, social, or behavioral factors that are most important in the genesis of the complaint. Drug abuse must be corrected. Related symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, must be treated. Then, a thorough trail of transcutaneous stimulation is mandatory. A desultory use will undoubtedly lead to failure. This trial must begin with patient education by experienced personnel. Then the electrodes must be properly applied, and there must be a regular follow-up of stimulation to be certain the patient is utilizing it correctly. The patient must be supported through an adequate trial which should extend over 2-4 weeks before purchase of the device is contemplated. Furthermore, all related nursing and physician personnel must be educated in the proper use of the technique. The uninformed professional who denigrates the therapy is a very effective deterrent to appropriate use. In this situation, transcutaneous electrical stimulation will be of great value in the treatment of acute musculoskeletal injury and acute postoperative pain. It will be effective in the treatment of peripheral nerve injury pain, chronic musculoskeletal abnormalities, chronic pain in the patient who has undergone multiple operations upon the low back and neck, visceral pain, some of the reflex sympathetic dystrophies, and postherpetic neuralgia. Stimulation will not help a complaint which is psychosomatic in origin. It will not influence drug addiction. It is not likely to be useful in any situation where secondary gain is important. The metabolic neuropathies, pain of spinal cord injury, and pain from cerebrovascular accident will not respond frequently enough to warrant more than hopeful trials. The technique is inexpensive, places the patient in control of his own pain, and has no known serious side effects. Its widespread application awaits the development of reasonable systems to provide this service to physicians and patients. Stimulation-induced analgesia deserves a place in the armamentarium of every physician dealing with the complaint of pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-343
Number of pages21
JournalClinical neurosurgery
StatePublished - Dec 1 1983

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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