Differential Effects of Subcutaneous Electrical Stimulation (SQS) and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) in Rodent Models of Chronic Neuropathic or Inflammatory Pain

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Electrical stimulation has been used for many years for the treatment of pain. Present-day research demonstrates that stimulation targets and parameters impact the induction of specific pain-modulating mechanisms. New targets are increasingly being investigated clinically, but the scientific rationale for a particular target is often not well established. This present study compares the behavioral effects of targeting peripheral axons by electrode placement in the subcutaneous space vs. electrode placement on the surface of the skin in a rodent model.

Materials and Methods:

Rodent models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain were used to investigate subcutaneous electrical stimulation (SQS) vs. transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrical parameters and relative location of the leads were held constant under each condition.


SQS had cumulative antihypersensitivity effects in both inflammatory and neuropathic pain rodent models, with significant inhibition of mechanical hypersensitivity observed on days 3–4 of treatment. In contrast, reduction of thermal hyperalgesia in the inflammatory model was observed during the first four days of treatment with SQS, and reduction of cold allodynia in the neuropathic pain model was seen only on the first day with SQS. TENS was effective in the inflammation model, and in agreement with previous studies, tolerance developed to the antihypersensitivity effects of TENS. With the exception of a reversal of cold hypersensitivity on day 1 of testing, TENS did not reveal significant analgesic effects in the neuropathic pain rodent model.


The results presented show that TENS and SQS have different effects that could point to unique biologic mechanisms underlying the analgesic effect of each therapy. Furthermore, this study is the first to demonstrate in an animal model that SQS attenuates neuropathic and inflammatory-induced pain behaviors.

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