We assessed for the first time the long-term maintenance of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)-induced analgesia in patients with chronic widespread pain due to fibromyalgia. Forty consecutive patients were randomly assigned, in a double-blind fashion, to 2 groups: one receiving active rTMS (n=20) and the other, sham stimulation (n=20), applied to the left primary motor cortex. The stimulation protocol consisted of 14 sessions: an "induction phase" of 5 daily sessions followed by a "maintenance phase" of 3 sessions a week apart, 3 sessions a fortnight apart, and 3 sessions a month apart. The primary outcome was average pain intensity over the last 24 hours, measured before each stimulation from day 1 to week 21 and at week 25 (1 month after the last stimulation). Other outcomes measured included quality of life, mood and anxiety, and several parameters of motor cortical excitability. Thirty patients completed the study (14 in the sham stimulation group and 16 in the active stimulation group). Active rTMS significantly reduced pain intensity from day 5 to week 25. These analgesic effects were associated with a long-term improvement in items related to quality of life (including fatigue, morning tiredness, general activity, walking, and sleep) and were directly correlated with changes in intracortical inhibition. In conclusion, these results suggest that TMS may be a valuable and safe new therapeutic option in patients with fibromyalgia.
Copyright © 2011 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.