Rehab experts make great strides in pain management


Prof. Christina Hui-Chan Wan-ying

Prof. Christina Hui-Chan Wan-ying
Credit: Hong Kong Polytechnic University
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Experts of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU)’s Department of Rehabilitation Sciences have made great strides in pain management through integrating acupuncture points and the evidence-based application of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

Led by Prof. Christina Hui-Chan Wan-ying, researchers of the University’s Centre for East-meets-West in Rehabilitation have successfully made use of TENS to relieve the pain associated with various health problems, including knee osteoarthritis as well as back and neck pain.

The application of TENS through surface electrodes to trigger points is a common modality for treating musculo-skeletal pain in western countries.  Over the past 10 years, Prof. Hui-Chan has merged East-meets-West approaches by combining TENS and acupuncture points with exercise therapy in the management of pain.

This novel TENS approach has an advantage over traditional Chinese acupuncture in that it is non-invasive, using surface electrodes instead of acupuncture needles and thereby minimizing any possible risk of infection.  Furthermore, patients can learn to apply the modality themselves,” said Prof. Hui-Chan.

The treatment has been proven effective for managing different types of pain and the results were published in a number of international and indexed journals.

In an article published in Clinical Rehabilitation (August 2004 issue), Prof. Hui-Chan and her colleagues have proved that the addition of TENS to exercise training tended to produce better knee muscle strength and walking performance in people with knee osteoarthritis than those receiving TENS or exercise training alone. Another PhD study under Prof. Hui-Chan’s supervision has demonstrated that TENS administered prior to and after knee replacement surgery for knee osteoarthritis significantly reduced pain and increased knee flexion range.

Osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease, is defined as a group of conditions in which the cartilage joints is gradually worn away. Since the bone adjacent to the joints is remodelled, the disease will commonly lead to chronic pain and even loss of mobility. For very severe cases, patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis might require surgical operation for joint replacement.

Ms Serena Yang, a patient who has been suffering from knee osteoarthritis and receiving treatment at PolyU’s Rehabilitation Clinic, also testified the effectiveness of receiving electrical modality and exercise training prior to and after knee surgery at the press briefing.

More recently, Prof. Hui-Chan and her colleagues have also studied the use of TENS on acupuncture points for soothing neck pain. A total of 218 patients with chronic neck pain were recruited for this large-scale randomized control trial.

After receiving six-week treatment, the patients reported less pain and significant improvement in neck muscle strength. The results have been published in a recent issue of the journal Clinical Rehabilitation (Dec 2005).

Source / Credit: Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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