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Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) is the application of very low doses of electricity to the head and through the brain.  The current delivered is very low, 2 mAmps or less.  This low-level current changes the ability of neurons to depolarize – making it either easier, or harder, depending on how the current is applied.   Through tDCS we can encourage more or less activity in a given region of the brain, which can be helpful for a variety of neurological concerns.

The benefits of this therapy are just beginning to be understood in areas like MS, epilepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Dementia, Brain Injury, and Stroke recovery.  Completed trials have shown defined benefits in Fibromyalgia, Major Depression, and Migraine. In general, it appears to be beneficial for central neuropathic pain. Side effects are minimal.  The most common reported are tingling and itching at the electrode site, and headaches during the treatments.

tDCS for Depression

In double blinded, placebo controlled trials, tDCS was as effective as sertraline (a SSRI antidepressant) for the treatment of depression, and when combined, the effect was better than either alone.

Side benefits of tDCS in trials, and what we see in the clinic, include improved cognition, less pain (in patients with neuropathic pain), and improved psychomotor speed (i.e. being able to coordinate thinking fast with doing something fast like driving a car).

tDCS for Fibromyalgia and Migraine Headaches

In September 2016, Health Canada approved tDCS for the treatment of Fibromyalgia and Migraine.  This approval was based on 16 studies showing effective treatment of Fibromyalgia, Migraine, and pain associated with Spinal Cord Injury.

Off-label uses

tDCS has been shown to be helpful, but is not yet approved for, the treatment of the following conditions:

Treatments usually start out with 3-weeks of daily sessions 5-days a week, for 30 minutes each.  After this, the frequency of treatment declines based upon what condition is being treated.  For example, after the initial 3 weeks, patients being treated for depression begin once weekly or biweekly treatments for 2-3 months, and then once monthly thereafter for another 2-3 months.

The initial 3 weeks of 5-days a week treatment is a decent commitment and must be planned well.   Patients who are new to Acacia will need to do an initial visit with one of our NDs.  Patients with Bipolar disorder, or with a history of mania, may not be candidates for this treatment.  Patients with cochlear or metal implants are not candidates for tDCS.

You can read more about this treatment by following the links below:



More pain studies showing efficacy:

Major Depression trials