Transcranial Electrical Stimulation (TCES) treatment involves applying electrodes to an individual’s scalp to allow electrical current to be applied and presumably stimulate the underlying cerebrum (Tan et al. 2006).
Tan et al. (2006) conducted a double-blind RCT with 38 SCI participants with either chronic musculoskeletal or neuropathic pain receiving either active TCES or inactive TCES (sham control) over 21 days. The electrical stimulation was set at a subthreshold level ensuring that patients were blind to their treatment group. The study found that SCI patients receiving transcranial electrotherapy stimulation (n=18) experienced a significant reduction in post-SCI neuropathic and musculoskeletal average daily rating of pain intensity (p=0.03); however, there was no significant reduction in pain as noted on the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI).
Capel et al. (2003) reported that TCES resulted in lower pain scores on the McGill Pain Questionnaire for those in the treatment group (n=15), while those in the control group (n=15) reported no change. No statistical differences were noted across different pain types, although the authors did comment that subjects had greater relief of visceral pain following each active four-day treatment phase of the study. TCES was associated with a reduction in the use of analgesics and antidepressants.
There is evidence level 1a evidence (from two randomized controlled trials; Capel et al. 2003; Tan et al. 2006) for the benefits of transcranial electrical stimulation in reducing neuropathic and musculoskeletal post-SCI pain.
- Transcranial electrical stimulation is effective in reducing post SCI pain.