Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation: The effect of intensity on local and distal cutaneous blood flow and skin temperature in healthy subjects

Cramp, Fiona (Alice); McCullough, Gillian R.; Lowe, Andrea S.; Walsh, Deirdre M.


Fiona Cramp
Professor in Long Term Conditions

Gillian R. McCullough

Andrea S. Lowe

Deirdre M. Walsh


Objective: To determine what effect transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) intensity has on local and distal cutaneous blood flow and skin temperature. Design: Double-blind conditions. Setting: University research laboratory. Participants: Forty subjects (20 men, 20 women) randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups (10 per group): control, above-motor-threshold TENS, below-motor-threshold TENS, or perception-threshold TENS. Intervention: TENS (4Hz, 200μs) was applied over the median nerve of the right forearm for 15 minutes. Main Outcome Measures: Blood flow measured by laser Doppler flowmeter and skin temperature measured by skin thermistor were recorded during TENS and for 15 minutes after it. Results: Significant differences occurred between groups for forearm (P < .0001; repeated-measures analysis of variance) but not fingertip cutaneous blood flow. Post hoc Fisher tests showed a significant increase in forearm blood flow during TENS application in the above-motor-threshold TENS group compared with the other 3 groups. No significant differences between groups for skin temperature data were observed. Conclusions: The effect of TENS on cutaneous blood flow depends on whether muscle activity is induced. Low-frequency TENS applied above the motor threshold significantly increases local cutaneous blood flow. There were no significant differences between groups for skin temperature. © 2002 by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2002
Journal Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Print ISSN 0003-9993
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 83
Issue 1
Pages 5-9
Keywords transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, blood flow, skin temperature
Public URL
Publisher URL