Fibromyalgia is a prevalent chronic pain syndrome characterized by altered pain and sensory processing in the central nervous system, which is often refractory to multiple therapeutic approaches. Given previous evidence supporting analgesic properties of noninvasive brain stimulation techniques in this condition, this study examined the effects of a novel, more focal method of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), using the 4×1-ring configuration of high-definition (HD)-tDCS, on overall perceived pain in fibromyalgia patients. In this patient- and assessor-blind, sham-controlled, crossover trial, 18 patients were randomized to undergo single 20-minute sessions of anodal, cathodal, and sham HD-tDCS at 2.0 mA in a counterbalanced fashion. The center electrode was positioned over the left primary motor cortex. Pain scales and sensory testing were assessed before and after each intervention. A finite element method brain model was generated to predict electric field distribution. We found that both active stimulation conditions led to significant reduction in overall perceived pain as compared to sham. This effect occurred immediately after cathodal HD-tDCS and was evident for both anodal and cathodal HD-tDCS 30 minutes after stimulation. Furthermore, active anodal stimulation induced a significant bilateral increase in mechanical detection thresholds. These interventions proved well tolerated in our patient population.
Perspective: 4×1-ring HD-tDCS, a novel noninvasive brain stimulation technique capable of more focal and targeted stimulation, provides significant reduction in overall perceived pain in fibromyalgia patients as compared to sham stimulation, irrespective of current polarity. This technique may have other applications in research and clinical settings, which should be further explored.
Copyright © 2013 American Pain Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.