Recently, at the American Pain Society Annual Meeting, transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) once again was discussed as a non-drug option for the treatment of chronic pain. TDCS has been evaluated for conditions ranging from depression to post-stroke rehabilitation and dementia, but the study described at the meeting was apparently the first double-blind, randomized study of tDCS in chronic pain.
Forty adult subjects aged 50 to 70 years (mean age, 59 years), including 21 women, with pain from knee osteoarthritis were studied, randomly assigned to receive five daily sessions of tDCS or a sham treatment for 20 minutes in each session. (The actual treatment rendered involved placement of an electrode over the primary motor cortex of the brain hemisphere that was on the opposite side of the affected knee, and another electrode was placed over the area above the eyes on the same side as the affected knee.)
There was a large treatment effect documented after just a few days: After the five daily sessions, there was a greater reduction in knee pain on a clinical pain severity scale of 0 to 100 in the tDCS group (18.50 ± 3.60) compared with the sham group (6.45 ± 2.26), for a mean difference between the groups of 12.05.
These results are rather impressive, particularly when compared with pain pills.
Stay tuned to see where these leads all lead.