Effects of Transcutaneous Spinal Direct Current Stimulation (tsDCS) in Patients With Chronic Pain: A Clinical and Neurophysiological Study

Matteo Guidetti, Roberta Ferrucci, Maurizio Vergari, Giada Aglieco, Anisa Naci, Sara Versace, Kevin Pacheco-Barrios, Stefano Giannoni-Luza, Sergio Barbieri, Alberto Priori, Tommaso Bocci

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Background and Aims: Chronic pain is a complex clinical condition, often devastating for patients and unmanageable with pharmacological treatments. Converging evidence suggests that transcutaneous spinal Direct Current Stimulation (tsDCS) might represent a complementary therapy in managing chronic pain. In this randomized, double-blind and sham-controlled crossover study, we assessed tsDCS effects in chronic pain patients. Methods: Sixteen patients (aged 65.06 ± 16.16 years, eight women) with chronic pain of different etiology underwent sham and anodal tsDCS (anode over the tenth thoracic vertebra, cathode over the somatosensory cortical area: 2.5 mA, 20 min, 5 days for 1 week). As outcomes, we considered the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), the Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), and the components of the lower limb flexion reflex (LLFR), i.e., RIII threshold, RII latency and area, RIII latency and area, and flexion reflex (FR) total area. Assessments were conducted before (T0), immediately at the end of the treatment (T1), after 1 week (T2) and 1 month (T3). Results: Compared to sham, anodal tsDCS reduced RIII area at T2 (p = 0.0043) and T3 (p = 0.0012); similarly, FR total area was reduced at T3 (p = 0.03). Clinically, anodal tsDCS dampened VAS at T3 (p = 0.015), and NPSI scores at T1 (p = 0.0012), and T3 (p = 0.0015), whereas sham condition left them unchanged. Changes in VAS and NPSI scores linearly correlated with the reduction in LLFR areas (p = 0.0004). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that tsDCS could modulate nociceptive processing and pain perception in chronic pain syndromes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number695910
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
StatePublished - 6 Sep 2021


  • chronic pain
  • neurophysiology
  • non-invasive brain stimulation
  • transcutaneous spinal direct current stimulation
  • treatment
  • tsDCS


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