Treating fibromyalgia with electrical neuromodulation: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Clin Neurophysiol. 2023 Apr:148:17-28. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2023.01.011. Epub 2023 Feb 1.


Objective: Several types of electrical neuromodulation (such as transcranial direct current stimulation, tDCS; transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) have been applied in the treatment of fibromyalgia. These trials had different outcome measurements, such as subjective pain, pain threshold, depression, anxiety, and functioning. We intended to integrate data from different trials into a meta-analysis to clearly present the clinical value of electrical neuromodulation in fibromyalgia.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing the effect of all types of electrical neuromodulation in patients with fibromyalgia was conducted. The main outcome was subjective pain; the secondary outcomes included depression, anxiety, and functioning.

Results: Twenty-five studies and 1061 fibromyalgia patients were included in the quantitative analysis. Active electrical neuromodulation and active tDCS both showed significant effects on subjective pain, depression, and functioning. For different anode tDCS electrode positions, only F3-F4 revealed a significant effect on depression. Meta-regression tDCS effects on depression were significantly associated with age.

Conclusions: Electrical neuromodulation is significantly effective in treating pain, depression, and functioning in patients with fibromyalgia.

Significance: The results may help clinicians to arrange effective treatment plans for patients with fibromyalgia, especially in those patients who reveal limited response to pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy.

Keywords: Electrical neuromodulation; Fibromyalgia; Pain; Transcranial direct current stimulation; Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Fibromyalgia* / diagnosis
  • Fibromyalgia* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation* / methods
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation* / methods