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Interferential current therapy no better than placebo, review


Tags: treatment, TENS, devices

PainSci summary of Fuentes 2010?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★★☆?4-star ratings are for bigger/better studies and reviews published in more prestigious journals, with only quibbles. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

Interferential current (IFC) is related to the much better known TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). IFC is basically a more penetrating TENS. Evidence of its clinical efficacy is limited and debatable. This review of randomized controlled trials of IFC from 1950 to 2009. Only twenty studies met the criteria to be included in the review. Unfortunately, “Interferential current alone was not significantly better than placebo or other therapy at discharge or follow-up.” However, due to the low number and quality of studies that used IFC alone, no final conclusive statement could be made regarding analgesic efficacy.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstractAbstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Interferential current (IFC) is a common electrotherapeutic modality used to treat pain. Although IFC is widely used, the available information regarding its clinical efficacy is debatable.

PURPOSE: The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to analyze the available information regarding the efficacy of IFC in the management of musculoskeletal pain.

DATA SOURCES: Randomized controlled trials were obtained through a computerized search of bibliographic databases (ie, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE, PEDro, Scopus, and Web of Science) from 1950 to February 8, 2010. Data Extraction Two independent reviewers screened the abstracts found in the databases. Methodological quality was assessed using a compilation of items included in different scales related to rehabilitation research. The mean difference, with 95% confidence interval, was used to quantify the pooled effect. A chi-square test for heterogeneity was performed.

DATA SYNTHESIS: A total of 2,235 articles were found. Twenty studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Seven articles assessed the use of IFC on joint pain; 9 articles evaluated the use of IFC on muscle pain; 3 articles evaluated its use on soft tissue shoulder pain; and 1 article examined its use on postoperative pain. Three of the 20 studies were considered to be of high methodological quality, 14 studies were considered to be of moderate methodological quality, and 3 studies were considered to be of poor methodological quality. Fourteen studies were included in the meta-analysis.

CONCLUSION: Interferential current as a supplement to another intervention seems to be more effective for reducing pain than a control treatment at discharge and more effective than a placebo treatment at the 3-month follow-up. However, it is unknown whether the analgesic effect of IFC is superior to that of the concomitant interventions. Interferential current alone was not significantly better than placebo or other therapy at discharge or follow-up.

RESULTS: must be considered with caution due to the low number of studies that used IFC alone. In addition, the heterogeneity across studies and methodological limitations prevent conclusive statements regarding analgesic efficacy.

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