A New Treatment for Chronic Pain?

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS)

Chronic pain is pain that lasts beyond expected healing. Many patients experience continuing pain despite conventional treatments such as medication, physical therapy, injections, and even surgery. If you are suffering from this refractory type of chronic pain, neuromodulation therapies such as Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) may be an option.

tDCS is a type of Neuromodulation therapy designed to alter the way the nervous system (nerves, spinal cord, and/or brain) transmits messages, such as the pain messages that occur when pain nerve cells are stimulated or damaged. Other types of neuromodulation include spinal cord stimulation for refractory pain, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, an FDA-approved treatment for depression that is currently being evaluated in the treatment of chronic pain.

In the case of chronic pain, doctors think there is an imbalance of the nerve cell activity and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers between nerve cells), similar to a short-circuit or computer virus, that maintains a pain signal in the brain despite resolution of an initial injury or illness. Neuromodulation may adjust these imbalances and give some patients relief from these difficult pain problems.

tDCS is a unique, safe option for trying to alleviate chronic pain. Some conditions which have shown positive results in tDCS trials include RSD (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), fibromyalgia, neuropathic (nerve damage) pain, migraines, and pain after brain damage or stroke. In tDCS, an electrical current so low that it cannot be felt during most of the treatment is passed through the skull to the brain below. The mechanism of tDCS is not clear, but studies have shown that the current affects a variety of brain areas. TDCS polarizes (gives a relative negative or positive electrical charge to) the brain cells under the electrode, and reduces or enhances the tendency of the brain cells to trigger an electrical message, depending on the polarity of the electrodes. It has been proposed that this polarization may reverse the abnormal brain excitability responsible for pain.

tDCS is an off-label procedure. The FDA has not cleared the equipment used in tDCS for brain treatment. Doctors are allowed to use a medical device for an off-label purpose, if, in the physician’s medical judgment, he or she believes that use of the device will benefit the patient.

For more information, contact BrainStim Health & TMS Center at 877-750-7846.

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