Questions: What is the immediate effect of a single 45-minute session of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation over acupoints (Acu-TENS) on lung function and dyspnoea in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?
Randomised, placebo-controlled trial with concealed allocation, participant blinding, assessor blinding, and intention-to-treat analysis.
Participants: Forty-six ambulatory patients with a mean age of 75 years, with stage I or II chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and with no previous experience of TENS or acupuncture.
Intervention: The experimental group received 45 minutes of Acu-TENS over acupoint Ex-B1 bilaterally (0.5 ‘cun’ lateral to the spinous process of the 7th cervical vertebra) while the control group received placebo-TENS with identical electrode placement but no electrical output despite a flashing light indicating stimulus delivery.
Outcome measures: Lung function was measured as FEV1 and FVC while dyspnoea was
measured using a shortness of breath 100-mm visual analogue scale.
Results: After 45 minutes of Acu-TENS, the experimental group had increased FEV1 by 0.12 litres (95% CI 0.07 to 0.15) and decreased dyspnoea by 10.7 mm (95% CI –13.9 to –7.6) more
than the control group. The effect on FVC was only small (mean difference 0.05 litres, 95% CI –0.01 to 0.10).
Conclusion: Acu-TENS may be a useful non-invasive adjunctive intervention in the management of dyspnoea in patients with chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease. This study suggests that the effect of long-term Acu-TENS warrants further investigation. [Lau KSL, Jones AYM (2008) A single session of Acu-TENS increases FEV1 and reduces dyspnoea in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Australian Journal of Physiotherapy 54: 179–184]
Key words: Acupuncture points, Acupressure, TENS, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
Forced expiratory volume, Dyspnoea
author: Ken SL Lau and Alice YM Jones
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