Background: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) promotes upper motor neuron excitability which has the potential to improve function. As a precursor to clinical trials, we investigated the potential efficacy of TENS on strength, proprioception and balance in healthy older adults.
- Design: A paired-sample randomized crossover trial. No stimulation was the control.
- Intervention: A one-off session of TENS (Modulated frequency: 70-130Hz, 5 second cycle) via a conductive sock.
- Participants: 25 healthy older volunteers with no pre-existing balance or mobility limitations or contra-indications to TENS.
- Outcomes: Dorsiflexor and plantarflexor strength and proprioception using an isokinetic dynamometer and balance (postural sway and forward reach test).
- Analysis: Paired t-tests
Results: None of the parameters showed any significant changes with TENS (p>0.05).
Conclusions: The stimulation of cutaneous sensory nerve endings of the foot with the application of TENS showed no immediate effect on the ankle proprioception, lower leg muscle strength, and postural stability. The concern that TENS would have a distracting impact on sensation and balance was not supported according to these results.