Objective: To examine the efficacy of transcranial electrical stimulation a non-invasive method of reducing pain.
Design: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.
Subjects: A total of 119 patients with chronic pain.
Methods: Patients were treated with either transcranial electrical stimulation or an active placebo device. Short- and long-term follow-ups were evaluated for treatment efficacy with 4 ordinal scale variables: visual analogue scale (pain level), SLEEP (how often does pain disturb sleep), FREQ (frequency of pain) and MED (frequency of use of medications to relieve pain).
Results: Pain level decreased significantly in the transcranial electrical stimulation-treated group compared with the active-placebo group 3 weeks after the end of treatment (p = 0.0017 between groups). Other parameters did not demonstrate significant differences. Three months after the end of treatment this effect was maintained and other treatment parameters showed similar improvements.
Conclusion: Transcranial electrical stimulation is an effective non-invasive method for pain relief. The active placebo device has a powerful effect on reported pain, which diminishes in the long-term. The involvement of possible neural mechanisms is discussed.