by David Douglas

Last Updated: 2007-11-12 16:15:37 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Home-based transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) combined with task-related training improves lower limb function in subjects with chronic stroke, Chinese researchers report in the November issue of Stroke.

"Besides the demonstrated benefits," senior investigator Dr. Christina W. Y. Hui-Chan told Reuters Health, "clients who found it difficult to navigate the crowded public transportation in Hong Kong appreciated that they could have the treatment program at home."

Drs. Hui-Chan and Shamay S. M. Ng of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University studied 88 patients, a mean of 5.3 years after stroke. They were randomized to TENS, TENS and task-related training, placebo TENS and task-related training, or to no treatment.

The intervention was conducted 5 days per week for 4 weeks. The team found that compared to TENS alone, the TENS-and-training group showed significantly greater improvements in ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion torque.

The TENS-and-training group achieved other benefits compared to the placebo TENS and training group. The TENS-and-training group also demonstrated significant improvements in gait velocity, compared to all of the other groups,

"Our home-based treatment program," continued Dr. Hui-Chan, "has proven to be feasible and safe for these patients."

Moreover, she noted that one of the patients was a 69-year old man who "walked slowly with a cane and a stiff knee on his affected side." Following therapy, he was able to walk much faster and did not need a cane indoors.

Dr. Hui-Chan met him a year after treatment and he told her that relatives and friends said "that I now walk as well as I did before my stroke," she recounted.

Stroke 2007;38:2953-2959.