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Pain. 2016 Feb;157(2):429-37. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000386.

Reduction of chronic abdominal pain in patients with inflammatory bowel disease through transcranial direct current stimulation: a randomized controlled trial.

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Department of Medicine I (Gastroenterology, Infectious Diseases, Rheumatology), Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is frequently associated with chronic abdominal pain (CAP). Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been proven to reduce chronic pain. This study aimed to investigate the effects of tDCS in patients with CAP due to IBD. This randomized, sham-controlled, double blind, parallel-designed study included 20 patients with either Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis with CAP (≥3/10 on the visual analog scale (VAS) in 3/6 months). Anodal or sham tDCS was applied over the primary motor cortex for 5 consecutive days (2 mA, 20 minutes). Assessments included VAS, pressure pain threshold, inflammatory markers, and questionnaires on quality of life, functional and disease specific symptoms (Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Severity Scoring System [IBS-SSS]), disease activity, and pain catastrophizing. Follow-up data were collected 1 week after the end of the stimulation. Statistical analyses were performed using analysis of variance and t tests. There was a significant reduction of abdominal pain in the anodal tDCS group compared with sham tDCS. This effect was evident in changes in VAS and pressure pain threshold on the left and right sides of the abdomen. In addition, 1 week after stimulation, pain reduction remained significantly decreased in the right side of the abdomen. There was also a significant reduction in scores on pain catastrophizing and on IBS-SSS when comparing both groups. Inflammatory markers and disease activity did not differ significantly between groups throughout the experiment. Transcranial direct current stimulation proved to be an effective and clinically relevant therapeutic strategy for CAP in IBD. The analgesic effects observed are unrelated to inflammation and disease activity, which emphasizes central pain mechanisms in CAP.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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