General trends have emerged in transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation research in regards to wave characteristics as they relate to pain control. Specific electrotherapeutic parameters to maximize the effectiveness of TENS is still under scrutiny. Guidelines may be defined when it is determined what electrical waveform parameters are most effective in eliminating pain. Epidermal tissue provides a barrier between the generated TENS wave and the stimulation of excitable tissue. This physiologic barrier tends to modify the original generated waveform. The purpose of this study was to compare electrical characteristics of frequency, amplitude, duration, skin resistance, and visual characteristics of the waveform as observed on an oscilloscope among five different TENS units as well as a sine and square wave. Comparison was performed by observing the electrical features of a given waveform through a one kilo ohm resistor versus the electrical features of the waveform through pig skin. Results showed no observable difference in frequency, significant difference in amplitude, variable difference in duration of the wave, and small difference in the resistance of electrical flow through pig skin as a function of frequency with traditional TENS parameters. Results by visual comparison of waveforms through a one kilo ohm resistor versus through pig skin indicated that epidural tissue has capacitive qualities which distort the appearance of waveform.
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