A study into the benefits of TENS machines in the treatment of patients with knee osteoarthritis has won this year's largest award from the CSP's Physiotherapy Research Foundation.
The £88,000 prize is going to researchers at the University of the West of England, who will be working closely with Bristol Royal Infirmary's rheumatology unit. Physiotherapist Shea Palmer, who is leading the UWE team, said the two-year research project will aim to establish whether TENS machines, which aid pain reliefthrough electrical stimulation, can enhance the effects of exercise on knee osteoarthritis. 'We already have an evidence base that says education and exercise proves very helpful for this group, and there are systematic reviews saying that TENS is effective, but we want to investigate whether there is a benefit in combining the two,' he said. A similar study in Hong Kong did not produce useful results because patients had been told to apply TENS once a day, up to four times a week, he said. 'We are saying patients can use the machines when they feel they need to, and can change the settings to make the study as “real world” as possible,' Dr Palmer told Frontline. The project will begin next month, with 260 patients split into three groups: standard education and exercise programme, standard programme with TENS, and standard programme with placebo TENS. 'Osteoarthritis is a long-term condition and if TENS does prove beneficial with exercise, this could be a way for patients to manage their conditions independently in the community, reducing the dependence on physiotherapy,' he added.
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