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Efficacy of Microcurrent Therapy in the Treatment of Chronic Nonspecific Back Pain: A Pilot Study

Koopman, Joseph S. H. A. MD* †; Vrinten, Dorien H. MD*; van Wijck, Albert J. M. MD, PhD*

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31819a6f3e
Original Articles

Objectives Microcurrent therapy (MCT) is a novel treatment for pain syndromes. The MCT patch is hypothesized to produce stimuli that promote tissue healing by facilitating physiologic currents. Solid evidence from randomized clinical trials is lacking. To evaluate the efficacy of MCT in treating aspecific, chronic low-back pain, we conducted a double-blind, randomized, crossover, pilot trial.

Methods Ten succeeding patients presenting with nonspecific, chronic low-back pain in our university hospital were included. Patients started with two, 9-day baseline period followed by a 5-day treatment periods. During the treatment periods, either a placebo or MCT (verum) patch was randomly assigned. Mean and worst pain scores were evaluated daily by a visual analog scale (VAS). Furthermore, analgesic use, side effects, and quality of life were assessed after each period. Differences between the last 4 days of a treatment period and the baseline period were calculated. Differences between verum and placebo periods per patient were compared using paired t tests. A 20-mm VAS score reduction was considered clinically relevant.

Results The VAS score was lower during verum treatment, with a reduction [95% confidence interval (CI] of −0.43 (−1.74; 0.89) in mean and −1.07 (−2.85; 0.71) in worst pain. Analgesic use decreased during verum treatment, except for nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drug use, which increased. Quality of life improved during verum treatment. However, note of the findings were statistically significant.

Discussion A positive trend in MCT use for aspecific, chronic low-back pain is reported. Further investigations are required to evaluate the significance and relevance of this.

*Pain Clinic, Department of Anesthesiology, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht

Department of Medical Informatics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

The patches and the travel expenses of the participating patients were provided by the Benelux distributor of the patches TakeCare BV. The first and second authors have no conflicts of interest to declare, the third received compensation from the manufacturer. The first author is currently supported by an unrestricted grant from Pfizer for a totally unrelated research project.

Reprints: Joseph S. H. A. Koopman, MD, Department of Medical Informatics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands (e-mail: skoop29@gmail.com).

Received for publication July 20, 2008; revised November 28, 2008; accepted December 7, 2008

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.