Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation for Chronic Pain: State of the Art and Future Directions

SOURCE: Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience. 15 (no pagination), 2022. Article Number: 888716.


AUTHORS: Xiong H.-Y.; Zheng J.-J.; Wang X.-Q.

ABSTRACT: As a technique that can guide brain plasticity, non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) has the potential to improve the treatment of chronic pain (CP) because it can interfere with ongoing brain neural activity to regulate specific neural networks related to pain management. Treatments of CP with various forms of NIBS, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), using new parameters of stimulation have achieved encouraging results. Evidence of moderate quality indicates that high-frequency rTMS of the primary motor cortex has a clear effect on neuropathic pain (NP) and fibromyalgia. However, evidence on its effectiveness regarding pain relief in other CP conditions is conflicting. Concerning tDCS, evidence of low quality supports its benefit for CP treatment. However, evidence suggesting that it exerts a small treatment effect on NP and headaches is also conflicting. In this paper, we describe the underlying principles behind these commonly used stimulation techniques; and summarize the results of randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. Future research should focus on a better evaluation of the short-term and long-term effectiveness of all NIBS techniques and whether
they decrease healthcare use, as well as on the refinement of selection criteria.