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Clin J Pain. 2013 Jul;29(7):621-2. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31826b1329.

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) relieved itching in a patient with chronic neuropathic pain.

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Institute for Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation, Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY, USA.


Itching is often called the second modality of nociception besides pain, and affects many chronic pain patients.


This case report presents a first note on beneficial effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on itching associated with chronic neuropathic pain in a patient diagnosed with syringomyelia.


tDCS is a novel noninvasive neuromodulatory method with promising therapeutic potential in pain and symptom management. The primary mechanism of tDCS is subthreshold modulation of the neuronal resting membrane potential that induces a polarity-dependent modification of N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor function that plays a role in neuroplasticity. The patient, a 46-year-old white male diagnosed with syringomyelia 2 decades ago, continuously reported weakness in the arms and dyesthesias including pain and itch that fluctuated in severity. Pharmacological treatment with baclofen, duloxetine, and bupropion was partially helpful; however, did not prevent flares of pain and other dysesthesias, including itch. The patient underwent 3 tDCS treatment courses consisting of 20 minutes of tDCS on 5 consecutive days at each course over 13 months.


Although there was no change in pain intensity or quality during or after tDCS, the treatment resulted in a reduction in itch to a mild, tolerable intensity that persisted for 3 to 4 months after each course, before returning to the pretreatment level. The patient has agreed to a plan of care that will incorporate neurostimulation every 4 to 6 months, as long as its effectiveness continues.


This case provides a rationale for future studies of neuromodulatory treatments for itch, and indicates a potential clinical use of neuromodulation in patients with unrelieved itching.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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