Electrical Intramuscular Stimulation in Osteoarthritis Enhances the Inhibitory Systems in Pain Processing at Cortical and Cortical Spinal System

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Objective. To determine if in knee osteoarthritis (KOA), one session of active electrical intramuscular stimulation (a-EIMS) compared with sham causes an effect on the motor cortex excitability parameters [motor evoked potential (MEP; the primary outcome), short intracortical inhibition (SICI), intracortical facilitation (ICF) and cortical silent period (CSP)] and pain measurements [pain pressure threshold (PPT); visual analog scale (VAS) and change in numerical pain scale (NPS0-10) during the conditioned pain modulation (CPM)-task]. This study also set out to determine if serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mediates the effect of treatment on the cortical spinal system as assessed by MEP and PPT.

Design. Randomized clinical trial.

Subjects and methods. Women with KOA, 50–75-years old received a 30-min session of either sham (n = 13) or a-EIMS (n = 13) with 2 Hz. The pain measures and excitability parameters were measured before and immediately after a-EIMS or sham.

Results. The a-EIMS group compared with sham decreased the MEP by 31,67% [confidence interval (CI) 95%, 2.34–60.98]. For the secondary outcomes, the a-EIMS reduced the ICF and increased the CSP but not changed the SICI. The a-EIMS improved the pain reported on VAS, the PPT, and the score of the NPS (0–10) during the CPM-task The BDNF was negatively correlated with the PPT (r = −0.56).

Conclusions. The serum BDNF revealed an inverse relationship with PPT independent of the treatment group. These results suggest that a-EIMS enhanced the corticospinal inhibitory systems in cortical and infracortical pain processing sites most likely by bottom-up regulation mechanisms.

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