The evolving role of TMS therapy in pain management

If you look up “TMS” and “pain management”, you may run into articles on “Tension myositis syndrome”, a diagnosis of back pain raised by John E. Sarno in the 90s. It is completely unrelated and conceals some of the latest research on transcranial magnetic stimulation on that tyranny, the Web.

TMS is famous for “pain management”. Recently for Stanford Medicine, Connor Richards wrote a compelling article on Mitchell Florn, a pharmaceutical scientist and “outdoor guy” who claims that TMS therapy has changed his life. Florn, a University of Michigan graduate “well versed in medicine”, had chronic pain for over a decade which resisted opiate analgesics and a variety of other approaches; he thought “he had exhausted all possible remedies”.

That is a broad mission. The pain referred to can be “neuropathic” – that is, caused by diseases of or damage to the nerves – or it can be as diverse as pelvic pain, phantom pain, low back pain, and even migraine. Recent studies have attempted to evaluate “the use and efficacy of rTMS for controlling various pain conditions” by systematically reviewing past findings.

In February 2020, Seoyon Yang and Min Cheol Chang from South Korea used PubMed to identify all extant studies of the relationship between repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation and pain. Over “1030 potentially relevant articles were identified”. Their evaluation of this database was published as a review article: “Effect of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation on Pain Management: A Systematic Narrative Review”. Their findings? “rTMS is beneficial for treating neuropathic pain of various origins”. An impetus for future study.