European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 118, Issue 9, pp 1941–1958 | Cite as

Immediate effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) administered during resistance exercise on pain intensity and physical performance of healthy subjects: a randomized clinical trial

  • Mayara A. Menezes
  • Thaís A. B. Pereira
  • Leonardo M. Tavares
  • Belissa T. Q. Leite
  • Antônio G. R. Neto
  • Leury M. S. Chaves
  • Lucas V. Lima
  • Marzo E. Da Silva-Grigolleto
  • Josimari M. DeSantana
Original Article



Exercise-induced muscle pain is a self-limiting condition which impacts physical activity habits. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) promotes pain reduction and functional improvement in different pain conditions. We propose that applying TENS during exercise might reduce pain and improve physical performance. Thus, we aimed to investigate immediate effects of TENS applied during resistance exercise.


Healthy subjects of both sexes, irregularly active or sedentary were assigned into two groups: active (n = 24) or placebo (n = 22) TENS. The study was conducted over five moments: on day 0, subjects were recruited, on day 1 subjects performed the one-repetition maximum test (1RM); 72 h later, on day 2, 1RM was retested; 48 h later, on day 3, TENS was applied during a functional-resisted exercise protocol for upper limbs (bench press and rowing), with an intensity of 80% of 1RM; and 24 h after, on day 4, subjects were reevaluated. Assessment included pain intensity at rest and with movement, pressure pain thresholds, and muscle fatigue.


TENS did not reduce pain intensity when compared to placebo (p > 0.05). TENS reduce PPT in the latissmus dorsi: p = 0.02 and anterior tibialis: p = 0.04 in immediate reassessment. Immediate effects of TENS were significant for fatigue perception at rest (p = 0.01) and number of maximum repetitions during exercise sets, starting from the 5th set of rowing exercise (p = 0.002).


Our results show that TENS did not reduce pain perception in healthy individuals, but its use induced increased muscle action, contributing to a greater fatigue perception.


Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation Myalgia Resistance training Exercise Muscle fatigue 



1 maximum repetition test


Body mass index


Conditioned pain modulation


Disabilities of the arm, shoulder and hand questionnaire


Diastolic blood pressure


Delayed-onset muscle soreness


Heart rate


Physical activity questionnaire


Muscle endurance


Muscle fatigue


Physical activity readiness questionnaire


Pain intensity


Power output


Pressure pain threshold


Brazilian registry of clinical trials


Respiratory rate


Systolic blood pressure


Peripheral oxygen saturation


Temporal summation


Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation






Neuromuscular electrical stimulation



MAM, TABP, AGRN and MEDSG conceived and designed the study. LMT, BTQL, LMSC conducted the experiment. MAM and JMDS performed data analysis. MAM wrote the manuscript. LVL and JMDS reviewed the manuscript. All authors agree with the final version of the manuscript.

Author contributions

MAM, TABP, AGRN and MEDSG conceived and designed the study. LMT, BTQL, LMSC conducted the experiment. MAM and JMDS performed data analysis. MAM wrote the manuscript. LVL and JMDS reviewed the manuscript. All authors agree with the final version of the manuscript.


No funding was received.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mayara A. Menezes
    • 1
  • Thaís A. B. Pereira
    • 1
  • Leonardo M. Tavares
    • 3
  • Belissa T. Q. Leite
    • 3
  • Antônio G. R. Neto
    • 1
  • Leury M. S. Chaves
    • 4
  • Lucas V. Lima
    • 1
  • Marzo E. Da Silva-Grigolleto
    • 2
    • 4
  • Josimari M. DeSantana
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Graduate Program in Health SciencesFederal University of SergipeAracajuBrazil
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Physiological SciencesFederal University of SergipeAracajuBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Physical TherapyFederal University of SergipeAracajuBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Physical EducationFederal University of SergipeAracajuBrazil
  5. 5.Department of Physical TherapyFederal University of SergipeSão CristóvãoBrazil

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