Patients with chronic gastrointestinal dysmotility with or without significant neurological impairment may benefit from electrical stimulation of the spinal nerves to trigger the normalization of visceral reflexes mediated by the autonomic nervous system and enteric nervous system. The patients are monitored in Dr. Jihong Chen’s colon motility clinic at McMaster University Medical Center.


What is transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)?

TENS has been used for skeletal muscular pain for decades. Based on the neuroanatomy of human spinal innervation to the gut, stimulating the peripheral nerves will optimize internal organs’ function through the autonomic nervous system and enteric nervous system. Sacral TENS treatment, is a non-invasive and self-managed neuromodulation, targeting on the sacral neuronal centers of defecation and continence inside the spinal cord, which helps to normalize the intrinsic defecation and continence reflexes.


Eligibility Criteria:

  • Adults aged 18 - 95
  • Chronic severe refractory gastrointestinal dysmotility --- constipation, fecal incontinence
  • Without contraindications for TENS treatment


What the study involves

Patients will be trained to apply TENS at home. They will apply TENS to their lower back for up to 4 months, every day for 30 min.


Study Duration:

Daily up to 4 months



TENS equipment will be provided if needed


Contact us to know further information about the study:

Research Principal investigator: Dr. Jihong Chen MD PhD.

Research Coordinator: Lijun Liu, PhD Candidate


Sponsor Funding/Funding Disclosures:

This study is supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR)


Research Team:

Dr. Jihong Chen, Dr. Ms Lijun Liu, Ms Ashley Barbier, Mr. Amer Hussain, Mr. Khawar Ali. Jan D. Huizinga,

This study was approved by the Hamilton Integrated Research Ethics Board (#13795).

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