Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) may help patients with chronic pain diseases such as fibromyalgia, according to results from clinical trials conducted by TCT Research.
TCT Research’s tDCS is a noninvasive form of neurostimulation that delivers constant and low current to the area of interest in the brain via electrodes placed on the patient’s scalp. Although the exact mechanisms by which repetitive tDCS provides pain relief are not understood, this method has been shown to alter the functional connectivity among brain regions surrounding the stimulating electrode.
According to a TCT Research press release, the benefits of tDCS stimulation have been reported in several studies in patients with chronic pain after stroke or spinal cord injury, and chronic pain associated with other conditions, like fibromyalgia, visceral pain, migraine headaches, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and phantom limb pain (a condition that affects patients who, for instance, have been submitted to traumatic amputation of a limb).
Researchers believe that tDCS relieves pain by triggering changes in the organization of the cerebral cortex, especially the areas of the motor cortex and primary somatosensory cortex, which affect the normal pattern of neuronal activity.
In a study of patients with phantom limb pain, repetitive stimulation (10 times) with the anodal tDCS method over the motor cortex and primary somatosensory cortex caused a decrease in pain frequency and intensity, compared to the period prior to the stimulation.
Fibromyalgia patients may also benefit from treatment with the anodal tDCS method. According to a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, titled “Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Over The Left Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex Modulates Attention And Pain In Fibromyalgia: Randomized Clinical Trial,” 20-minute tDCS stimulation over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex helped control attention and pain in patients with fibromyalgia.
The study enrolled 40 women with fibromyalgia to assess attentional networks regulating pain, alertness, orienting, and executive control. The tDCS stimulation improved performance in orienting and executive attention networks, but had no effect on alertness. It also increased patients’ pain threshold compared to unstimulated patients.
“These findings suggest that the effect of tDCS on pain and attention may be a major target for neurostimulation therapies in addition to or in combination with the primary motor cortex for subjects who do not respond or are more refractory to neurostimulation therapies,” the study’s researchers wrote.
A list of published studies conducted by TCT Research on tDCS stimulation in several medical conditions can be found here.