Invasive electrical stimulation of the motor cortex has been reported to be of therapeutic value in pain control. We were interested whether noninvasive repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of the primary motor cortex might also act beneficially. Twelve patients with therapy-resistant chronic pain syndromes (mean age 51.3 ± 12.6, 6 males) were included in a pilot study. They were treated with rTMS of the corresponding motor cortex area for 20 min (20 Hz, 20 × 2 s trains, intensity 80% of motor threshold) and sham stimulation (sequence-controlled cross-over design). Some of the patients (6/6) had an analgesic effect, but for the whole group, the difference between active and sham stimulation did not reach a level of significance (active rTMS: mean VAS reduction –4.0 ± 15.6%; sham rTMS: –2.3 ± 8.8%). Further studies using different rTMS stimulation parameters (duration and frequency of rTMS) or stimulation sites (e.g. anterior cingulate gyrus) are strongly encouraged.
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