High-Frequency Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Reduces Pain in Postherpetic Neuralgia

Pain Med. 2015 Nov;16(11):2162-70. doi: 10.1111/pme.12832.


Objectives: Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is one of the most intractable pain disorders, especially in elderly patients. There is evidence that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) reduces neuropathic pain; however, its effectiveness for PHN is unknown. This study investigated the efficacy of high-frequency rTMS in patients with PHN.

Design: A total of 40 patients were randomly assigned to receive 10 sessions of real or sham rTMS of the primary motor cortex. Each stimulation session consisted of a series of 300 five-second pulses with a frequency of 10 Hz and an interval of 3 seconds between each train, giving a total of 1500 pulses per session. The primary outcome was pain intensity measured before stimulation from first intervention (T0) to the final stimulation (T10), and 1 and 3 months after final stimulation (T11 and T12). Other outcomes measured included scores on the short form McGill pain questionnaire, self-rating depression scale, quality of life (QOL), sleep quality, the patient global impression of change, medication regulation, and reported adverse events.

Results: The real rTMS group demonstrated greater reduction of visual analogue scale (VAS) than the sham group at each time point except for T0 (P = 0.399) and T1 (P = 0.091). Mean VAS reduction in the real rTMS group was 16.89% for duration of disease longer than 6 months. These analgesic effects were associated with long-term improvement in rating-scale items related to QOL.

Conclusion: The results suggest that rTMS is an effective and safe therapy in patients with PHN.

Keywords: Neuromodulation; Postherpetic Neuralgia; Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Neuralgia / therapy*
  • Neuralgia, Postherpetic / diagnosis
  • Neuralgia, Postherpetic / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quality of Life
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / methods
  • Treatment Outcome