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Efficacy and safety of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for acute and chronic pain in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of 381 studies (the meta-TENS study)

Por: Johnson · M. I. · Paley · C. A. · Jones · G. · Mulvey · M. R. · Wittkopf · P. G.

To investigate the efficacy and safety of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for relief of pain in adults.


Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Data sources

Medline, Cochrane Central, Embase (and others) from inception to July 2019 and updated on 17 May 2020.

Eligibility criteria for study selection

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing strong non-painful TENS at or close to the site of pain versus placebo or other treatments in adults with pain, irrespective of diagnosis.

Data extraction and synthesis

Reviewers independently screened, extracted data and assessed risk of bias (RoB, Cochrane tool) and certainty of evidence (Grading and Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation). Mean pain intensity and proportions of participants achieving reductions of pain intensity (≥30% or >50%) during or immediately after TENS. Random effect models were used to calculate standardised mean differences (SMD) and risk ratios. Subgroup analyses were related to trial methodology and characteristics of pain.


The review included 381 RCTs (24 532 participants). Pain intensity was lower during or immediately after TENS compared with placebo (91 RCTs, 92 samples, n=4841, SMD=–0·96 (95% CI –1·14 to –0·78), moderate-certainty evidence). Methodological (eg, RoB, sample size) and pain characteristics (eg, acute vs chronic, diagnosis) did not modify the effect. Pain intensity was lower during or immediately after TENS compared with pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments used as part of standard of care (61 RCTs, 61 samples, n=3155, SMD = –0·72 (95% CI –0·95 to –0·50], low-certainty evidence). Levels of evidence were downgraded because of small-sized trials contributing to imprecision in magnitude estimates. Data were limited for other outcomes including adverse events which were poorly reported, generally mild and not different to comparators.


There was moderate-certainty evidence that pain intensity is lower during or immediately after TENS compared with placebo and without serious adverse events.

PROSPERO registration number


Ten years of NIHR research training: who got an award? A retrospective cohort study

Por: Mulvey · M. R. · West · R. M. · Cotterill · L. A. · Magee · C. · Jones · D. E. J. · Harris-Joseph · H. · Thompson · P. · Hewison · J.

In 2017, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) academy produced a strategic review of training, which reported the variation in application characteristics associated with success rates. It was noted that variation in applicant characteristic was not independent of one another. Therefore, the aim of this secondary analysis was to investigate the inter-relationships in order to identify factors (or groups of factors) most associated with application numbers and success rates.


Retrospective data were gathered from 4388 applications to NIHR Academy between 2007 and 2016. Multinominal logistic regression models quantified the likelihood of success depending on changes in the explanatory factors; relative risk ratios with 95% CIs. A classification tree analysis was built using exhaustive 2 automatic interaction detection to better understand the effect of interactions between explanatory variables on application success rates.


936 (21.3%) applications were awarded. Applications from males and females were equally likely to be successful (p=0.71). There was an overall reduction in numbers of applications from females as award seniority increased from predoctoral to professorship. Applications from institutions with a medical school had a 2.6-fold increase in likelihood of success (p


Success rates did not differ according to gender, and doctors were not more likely to be successful than applications from other professions. Taken together, these findings suggest an essential fairness in how the quality of a submitted application is assessed, but they also raise questions about variation in the opportunity to submit a high-quality application. The companion qualitative study (Burkshaw et al. (2021) BMJ Open) provides valuable insight into potential candidate mechanisms and discusses how research capacity development initiatives might be targeted in the future.

Ten years of NIHR research training: perceptions of the programmes: a qualitative interview study

Por: Burkinshaw · P. · Bryant · L. D. · Magee · C. · Thompson · P. · Cotterill · L. A. · Mulvey · M. R. · Hewison · J.

The UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) training programmes were created to build and sustain research capacity in healthcare. Following the training programme 10-year strategic review, this qualitative study aimed to deepen understanding of facilitators and barriers for those progressing through NIHR-supported research careers.


Semistructured qualitative study.

Data collection and analysis

Telephone interviews conducted between May and August 2017 were digitally recorded, transcribed and analysed using Framework Approach.


UK National Health Service (NHS) Trusts, university medical schools, District General Hospitals, Integrated Academic Training Programme centres and Research Design Services across the North East, North West, South East and South West of England, London and the Midlands.


Fourteen women and eight men, of whom, 14 were previous or current NIHR personal awardees (seven doctors and seven allied health professionals (AHPs) or nurses) and eight were managers (staff within clinical or university training-related roles).


(1) NIHR awards were viewed as transformative for research careers; (2) however, there were perceptions of a biased ‘playing field’. (3) Inequalities were perceived for AHPs and nurses, those outside of established research institutes and those in ‘unfashionable’ specialisms. (4) While support for NIHR awards contributed to a healthy research culture, (5) short-term awards were perceived as a barrier to continuing an independent research career.


Participants perceived many strengths of the NIHR training programmes in terms of developing individual careers and research capacity. Areas in which improvement could enhance the ability to attract, develop and retain researcher were identified. Our findings are of relevance to schemes in other countries, where healthcare researchers experience similar challenges. Further work is needed to overcome barriers and ensure equity of access to, and success within, clinical research training schemes to sustain the research workforce needed to address future global health challenges.