Nonpharmacological therapies for central poststroke pain: A systematic review

Medicine (Baltimore). 2020 Oct 16;99(42):e22611. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000022611.


Background: Central poststroke pain (CPSP) is a neuropathic pain syndrome that can occur after a cerebrovascular accident. It has negative effects on mood, sleep, rehabilitation, and quality of life in stroke patients. This systematic review assessed the efficacy and safety of nonpharmacological therapies for treating CPSP.

Methods: The Cochrane, PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases were systematically searched for studies from inception to August 2020. Two authors worked independently and in duplicate to identify suitable studies.

Results: Eleven studies were identified. Pain related to CPSP was ameliorated by precentral gyrus stimulation (P = .01), caloric vestibular stimulation (P = 0.004), transcranial direct current stimulation (P < .05), and bee venom acupuncture point injection (P = .009). Acupuncture (P = .72) and electroacupuncture therapies (P > .05) were as effective for thalamic pain as oral carbamazepine treatment. Motor cortex stimulation, but not deep brain stimulation (DBS), was effective for treating refractory CPSP, and appeared to be more effective than thalamic stimulation for controlling bulbar pain secondary to Wallenberg syndrome. However, DBS in the ventral striatum or anterior limb of the internal capsule improved depression (P = .020) and anxiety in patients with refractory CPSP. Some serious adverse events were reported in response to invasive electrical brain stimulation, but most of these effects recovered with treatment.

Conclusions: Nonpharmacological therapies appear to be effective in CPSP, but the evidence is relatively weak. Invasive electrical brain stimulation can be accompanied by serious adverse events, but most patients recover from these effects.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy
  • Humans
  • Neuralgia / etiology
  • Neuralgia / therapy*
  • Stroke / complications*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation