BACKGROUND: Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation, an invasive method of neuromodulation, and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive method of altering cortical excitability, have both proven effective in relieving chronic pain. OBJECTIVE: We employed a randomized, sham-controlled crossover study design to investigate whether single-session tDCS would have an additive therapeutic effect alongside DRG stimulation (DRGS) in the treatment of chronic pain. METHODS: Sixteen neuropathic pain patients who were previously implanted with DRG stimulators were recruited. Baseline pain scores were established with DRGS-OFF. Pain scores were then recorded with DRGS-ON, after paired sham tDCS stimulation, and after paired active anodal tDCS (a-tDCS) stimulation. For active tDCS, patients were randomized to 'MEG (magnetoencephalography) localized' tDCS or contralateral motor cortex (M1) tDCS for 30 min. EEG recordings and evaluations of tDCS adverse effects were also collected. RESULTS: All participants reported the interventions to be tolerable with no adverse effects during the session. Paired DRGS/active tDCS resulted in a significant reduction in pain scores compared to DRGS/sham tDCS or DRGS alone. There was no difference in the additive effect of M1 vs. MEG-localized tDCS over DRGS alone. Significant augmentation of beta activity was observed between DRGS-OFF and DRGS-ON, as well as between DRGS-OFF and paired DRGS-ON/active tDCS. CONCLUSION: Our results indicate that a single session of tDCS alongside DRGS is safe and can significantly reduce pain acutely in neuropathic pain patients. Paired invasive/non-invasive neuromodulation is a promising new treatment strategy for pain management and should be evaluated further to assess long-term benefits.
Chronic pain, Dorsal root ganglion stimulation, EEG, Transcranial direct current stimulation