Is somatosensory electrical stimulation effective in relieving spasticity? A systematic review

Marco Antonio Cavalcanti Garcia and Claudia Domingues Vargas

Spasticity is a sensorimotor disorder widely recognized as one of the features that contribute to patients’ disability. Transcutaneous electric neural stimulation (TENS/SES) has been adopted in spasticity rehabilitation as an alternative to pharmacological agents. Although previous studies have reported clinical benefits of TENS/SES in relieving spasticity, there is no clarity on how and whether this therapeutic modality affects specific neural circuitries. Thus, this systematic review aimed to verify the efficacy of TENS/SES in the control of spasticity and its consequences in spinal and corticospinal excitability. This study was carried out according to PRISMA recommendations using SCOPUS, PubMed, BVS, Google Scholar and BASE databases screening, which provided 483 references. Six additional records were found from other sources. All these records were submitted to a filtering process following the eligibility criteria, and 44 studies were selected for further analysis. Ten were replicas. Consequently, 34 studies were read in full with the aim of checking their eligibility criterion, which resulted in 10 manuscripts for qualitative synthesis. Even though they evaluated the effects of TENS/SES both at the spinal and/or corticospinal levels, the electrophysiological results seem to be inconsistent, corroborating the lack of agreement between them and with clinical outcomes.

The whole paper is available here.

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