Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Comparison between sensory and motor transcutaneous electrical nervous stimulation on electromyographic and kinesiographic activity of patients with temporomandibular disorder: a controlled clinical trial

Annalisa Monaco*, Fabrizio Sgolastra, Davide Pietropaoli, Mario Giannoni and Ruggero Cattaneo

Author Affiliations

University of L’Aquila Department of Health Sciences, Via Vetoio 1, Italy, L’Aquila 67100, Italy

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2013, 14:168  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-168

Published: 15 May 2013



The purpose of the present controlled clinical trial was to assess the effect of a single 60 min application of transcutaneous electrical nervous stimulation (TENS) at sensory stimulation threshold (STS), compared to the application of motor stimulation threshold (MTS) as well as to untreatment, on the surface electromyographic (sEMG) and kinesiographic activity of patients with tempormanbibular disorder (TMD).


Sixty female subjects, selected according to the inclusion/exclusion criteria, suffering from unilateral TMD in remission were assigned to MTS, STS or untreatment. Pre- and post-treatment differences in the sEMG activity of temporalis anterior (TA), masseter (MM), digastric (DA) and sternocleidomastoid muscles (SCM), as well in the interocclusal distance (ID), within group were tested using the Wilcoxon test, while differences among groups were assessed by Kruskal-Wallis test; the level of significance was set at p ≤ 0.05.


Significant pre- and post-treatment differences were observed in MTS and STS groups, for TA and MM of both sides; no significant difference was detected between MTS and STS groups. Kinesiographic results showed that the vertical component of ID was significantly increased after TENS in MTS and STS groups.


STS TENS could be effective, as well as MTS, in reduce the sEMG activity of masticatory muscles and to improve the ID of TMD patients in remission. Future studies are needed to confirm the results of the present study. Clinical relevance. The present study demonstrates that the application of TENS is effective in reduce the sEMG activity, as well as in increasing the ID of patients with TMD; our study did not support superior effectiveness of MTS or STS.

Trial registration NCT01832207

Surface electromyography; Kinesiography; Temporomandibular disorder; Transcutaneous electrical nervous stimulation