CADTH is committed to supporting Canada’s health care decision-makers through this challenging and uncertain time.
For evidence, tools, and resources related to COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Evidence Portal.


Begin main content

Home Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Chronic Pain: A Review of the Clinical Effectiveness

Last updated: December 9, 2016
Project Number: RC0832-000
Product Line: Rapid Response
Research Type: Devices and Systems
Report Type: Summary with Critical Appraisal
Result type: Report


  1. What is the clinical effectiveness of home transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for patients with chronic pain?
  2. What is the comparative clinical effectiveness of home TENS vs. pharmacological interventions for patients with chronic pain?
  3. What is the cost-effectiveness of home TENS for patients with chronic pain?
  4. What are the evidence-based guidelines regarding home use of TENS?

Key Message

Two relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and two relevant non-randomized studies were identified that assessed the clinical effectiveness of home TENS for chronic pain. These studies were inconclusive for the most part, producing mixed results and treatment effect estimates that were of questionable clinical relevance. No relevant literature was identified that assessed the comparative effectiveness home TENS for chronic pain versus pharmacological interventions, or the cost-effectiveness of home TENS use. According to guideline recommendations for the use of TENS (not specific to home use), TENS is not recommended for the management of osteoarthritis of the knee, chronic neck pain, or chronic low back pain, presumably in any delivery format. In contrast, two guidelines recommend the purchase of a home-based TENS to manage chronic pain syndrome and chronic low back pain if initial treatment in a clinic-based setting is effective and frequent use is anticipated, although the linkage to the evidence in this guideline was unclear.