02 March 2020
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a rare neuropathic pain condition characterized by sensory, motor and autonomic alterations. Previous investigations have shown that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can alleviate pain in various populations, and that a combination of these treatments could provide greater hypoalgesic effects. In the present case report, we describe the effect of tDCS and TENS treatment on pain intensity and unpleasantness in a patient suffering from chronic CRPS.
The patient was a 37-year-old woman, suffering from left lower limb CRPS (type I) for more than 5 years. Despite medication (pregabalin, tapentadol, duloxetine), rehabilitation treatments (sensorimotor retraining, graded motor imagery) and spinal cord stimulation (SCS), the participant reported moderate to severe pain. Treatments of tDCS alone (performed with SCS turned off during tDCS application, 1 session/day, for 5 consecutive days) did not significantly decrease pain. Combining tDCS with TENS (SCS temporarily turned off during tDCS, 1 session/day, for 5 consecutive days) slightly reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness.
Our results suggest that combining tDCS and TENS could be a therapeutic strategy worth investigating further to relieve pain in chronic CRPS patients. Future studies should examine the efficacy of combined tDCS and TENS treatments in CRPS patients, and other chronic pain conditions, with special attention to the cumulative and long-term effects and its effect on function and quality of life.