The double-blinded randomized controlled trial showed that daily repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation of primary motor cortex provided short-term positive effect on neuropathic pain without serious adverse events.
There is little evidence for multisession repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on pain relief in patients with neuropathic pain (NP), although single-session rTMS was suggested to provide transient pain relief in NP patients. We aimed to assess the efficacy and safety of 10 daily rTMS in NP patients. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled, crossover study at 7 centers. Seventy NP patients were randomly assigned to 2 groups. A series of 10 daily 5-Hz rTMS (500 pulses/session) of primary motor cortex (M1) or sham stimulation was applied to each patient with a follow-up of 17 days. The primary outcome was short-term pain relief assessed using a visual analogue scale (VAS). The secondary outcomes were short-term change in the short form of the McGill pain questionnaire (SF-MPQ), cumulative changes in the following scores (VAS, SF-MPQ, the Patient Global Impression of Change scale [PGIC], and the Beck Depression Inventory [BDI]), and the incidence of adverse events. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with the University hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry. Sixty-four NP patients were included in the intention-to-treat analysis. The real rTMS, compared with the sham, showed significant short-term improvements in VAS and SF-MPQ scores without a carry-over effect. PGIC scores were significantly better in real rTMS compared with sham during the period with daily rTMS. There were no significant cumulative improvements in VAS, SF-MPQ, and BDI. No serious adverse events were observed. Our findings demonstrate that daily high-frequency rTMS of M1 is tolerable and transiently provides modest pain relief in NP patients.