Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a debilitating condition that causes chronic pain in one limb after a traumatic injury (generally fractures), surgery, stroke or heart attack. The condition is characterized by excessive pain, burning and “pins and needles” sensations, along with swelling, changes in skin color and stiffness at the affected limb.
Although the exact cause of CRPS is unknown, it’s believed that CRPS can be induced by inflammation, injury to peripheral nerves, paralysis and/or other conditions that may interfere with nerve activity. CRPS can be linked with an increase of neurotransmitters (norepinephrine) over-activating pain sensing nerves—which is believed to be the core cause of the chronic pain symptomatic of CRPS.
Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is becoming more and more common as a form of treatment for the chronic pain associated with CRPS. One of the main appeals of tDCS treatment is the lack of significant and long-term side effects that may result from treatment. tDCS has been explored to treat a variety of neuropathic pains caused by a range of conditions such as multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. Although the exact mechanism of action has yet to be elucidated, it’s generally understood that tDCS works to modulate the excitability and connectivity of the various pain processing sites in the brain—increasing or decreasing the excitability as needed at targeted sites of interest.
There have been both anecdotal and scientific evidence that tDCS indeed works toward significantly improving neuropathic pain associated with CRPS. With that being said, research in this field is still very young, so expect to see much more news on tDCS treatment for neuropathic pain and CRPS as researchers continue to narrow down and optimize tDCS parameters for the best and most effective treatment outcomes!