The use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to relieve pain

Lefaucheur J1, Antal A, Ahdab R, Ciampi de Andrade D, Fregni F, Khedr EM, Nitsche M, Paulus W.

Abstract

Chronic pain resulting from injury of the peripheral or central nervous system may be associated with a significant dysfunction of extensive neural networks. Noninvasive stimulation techniques, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) may be suitable to treat chronic pain as they can act on these networks by modulating neural activities not only in the stimulated area, but also in remote regions that are interconnected to the site of stimulation. Motor cortex was the first cortical target that was proved to be efficacious in chronic pain treatment. At present, significant analgesic effects were also shown to occur after the stimulation of other cortical targets (including prefrontal and parietal areas) in acute provoked pain, chronic neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, or visceral pain. Therapeutic applications of rTMS in pain syndromes are limited by the short duration of the induced effects, but prolonged pain relief can be obtained by repeating rTMS sessions every day for several weeks. Recent tDCS studies also showed some effects on various types of chronic pain. We review the evidence to date of these two techniques of noninvasive brain stimulation for the treatment of pain.

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