The aim of this study was to evaluate the analgesic effect of transcranial direct current stimulation of the motor cortex and techniques of visual illusion, applied isolated or combined, in patients with neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury. In a sham controlled, double-blind, parallel group design, 39 patients were randomized into four groups receiving transcranial direct current stimulation with walking visual illusion or with control illusion and sham stimulation with visual illusion or with control illusion. For transcranial direct current stimulation, the anode was placed over the primary motor cortex. Each patient received ten treatment sessions during two consecutive weeks. Clinical assessment was performed before, after the last day of treatment, after 2 and 4 weeks follow-up and after 12 weeks. Clinical assessment included overall pain intensity perception, Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory and Brief Pain Inventory. The combination of transcranial direct current stimulation and visual illusion reduced the intensity of neuropathic pain significantly more than any of the single interventions. Patients receiving transcranial direct current stimulation and visual illusion experienced a significant improvement in all pain subtypes, while patients in the transcranial direct current stimulation group showed improvement in continuous and paroxysmal pain, and those in the visual illusion group improved only in continuous pain and dysaesthesias. At 12 weeks after treatment, the combined treatment group still presented significant improvement on the overall pain intensity perception, whereas no improvements were reported in the other three groups. Our results demonstrate that transcranial direct current stimulation and visual illusion can be effective in the management of neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury, with minimal side effects and with good tolerability. © (2010) The Author.
- neuropathic pain
- spinal cord injury
- transcranial direct current stimulation
- visual illusion