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Indian J Med Res. 2019 Jul;150(1):73-80. doi: 10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_97_18.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation in chronic tension-type headache: A pilot study.

Author information

Department of Physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.
Department of Neurology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India.


Background & objectives:

Tension-type headache (TTH) is the most common type of primary headache disorder. Its chronic form is often the most ignored and challenging to treat. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a novel technique in the treatment of chronic pain. The aim of this pilot study was to explore the effect of low-frequency repetitive TMS (rTMS) on pain status in chronic TTH (CTTH) by subjective and objective pain assessment.


Patients (n=30) diagnosed with CTTH were randomized into rTMS (n=15) and placebo (n=15) groups in this study. Pre-intervention detailed history of patients was taken. Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) for Pain and questionnaires [Headache Impact Test-6 (HIT-6), McGill Pain Questionnaire, Pain Beliefs Questionnaire, Coping Strategies Questionnaire, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory Test, Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression and WHO-Quality of Life Questionnaire-Brief version] were filled, and objective assessments such as nociceptive flexion reflex (NFR) and conditioned pain modulation were done. The tests were repeated after 20 sessions (5 days/week). In the rTMS group, 1200 pulses in eight trains of 150 pulses each were given at 1Hz over the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (RDLPFC). In the placebo group, the rTMS coil was placed such that magnetic stimulation did not reach the cortex.


The NRS score decreased significantly (P<0.001) and NFR thresholds increased significantly (P=0.011) in the rTMS group when compared to placebo group.

Interpretation & conclusions:

Subjective improvements in the NRS, HIT-6, McGill Present Pain Intensity, trait of anxiety and psychological pain beliefs were observed. The increase in the thresholds of NFR served as an objective marker for improvement in pain status. Further studies need to be done to confirm our preliminary findings.


Brain stimulation; chronic pain; neuromodulation; nociceptive flexion reflex; pain assessment; prefrontal cortex

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