Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Fibromyalgia: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Pain Pract. 2016 Mar;16(3):294-304. doi: 10.1111/papr.12276. Epub 2015 Jan 12.


Background: Fibromyalgia (FM) is a prevalent chronic pain syndrome with few effective therapeutic options available. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an emerging therapeutic alternative for this condition; however, results have been mixed.

Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy of rTMS on FM, a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis were performed.

Methods: Relevant published, English and Portuguese language, randomized clinical trials (RCT) comparing rTMS (irrespective of the stimulation protocol) to sham stimulation for treating FM pain intensity, depression, and/or quality of life (QoL) were identified, considering only those with low risk for bias. Trials available until April 2014 were searched through MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library Databases, and other 26 relevant medical databases covering from every continent. The outcomes for pain, depression, and QoL assessed closest to the 30th day after rTMS treatment were extracted, and changes from baseline were calculated to compare the effects of rTMS vs. placebo.

Results: One hundred and sixty-three articles were screened, and five with moderate to high quality were included. rTMS improved QoL with a moderate effect size (Pooled SMD = -0.472 95%CI = -0.80 to -0.14); it showed a trend toward reducing pain intensity (SMD = -0.64 95%CI = -0.31 to 0.017), but did not change depressive symptoms.

Conclusion: In comparison with sham stimulation, rTMS demonstrated superior effect on the QoL of patients with FM 1 month after starting therapy. However, further studies are needed to determine optimal treatment protocols and to elucidate the mechanisms involved with this effect, which does not seem to be mediated by changes in depression, but that may involve pain modulation. Level of evidence 1b.

Keywords: depression; fibromyalgia; meta-analysis; neuromodulation; pain; quality of life; repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Fibromyalgia / psychology
  • Fibromyalgia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome