MUSC Study May Help Veterans with Chronic Pain

Contact: Heather Woolwine

March 21, 2016

CHARLESTON, SC – United States military veterans, who have been struggling with chronic back pain, are invited to participate in a study testing a new therapy for increased pain relief.

With thousands of veterans and personnel sustaining injuries during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, opioid prescription use is at an all-time high as these patients struggle to manage their chronic back pain. The study, led by Jeffrey Borckardt, Ph.D., MUSC Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences professor, offers a potential treatment path that looks to minimize the need to take medication to manage chronic pain. While opioids can help manage acute pain well, they are not ideal for long-term pain management.

The study is looking for veterans, ages 18-70 years old. Participants in the study will receive 11 therapy sessions and three follow-up visits. The study treatment combines cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in an effort to increase pain relief for those suffering from chronic back pain. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of talk therapy aimed at identifying and changing negative thoughts and unhelpful behaviors. Numerous studies have already shown that CBT helps people better manage chronic back pain.

Transcranial direct current stimulation is a safe, non-invasive form of neurotherapy whereby a small, targeted,  and controlled electrical current is pulsed into the brain. Studies have demonstrated that tDCS can help reduce pain and may also increase the benefits known to result from CBT. Researchers think that by combining CBT and tDCS, even greater pain relief may be achieved for chronic back pain sufferers than when administered as stand-alone treatments.

For more information about the study, including compensation, call 843-792-0291 or email

About MUSC

Founded in 1824, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) continues the tradition of excellence in education, research and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges and has more than 17,000 employees. As the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center and largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $3.2 billion, with an annual economic impact of nearly $4 billion and annual research funding in excess of $284 million.

As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality patient care available, while training generations of competent, compassionate health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Comprising some 1,600 beds, more than 100 outreach sites, the MUSC College of Medicine, the physicians’ practice plan, and nearly 275 telehealth locations, MUSC Health owns and operates eight hospitals situated in Charleston, Chester, Florence, Lancaster and Marion counties. In 2019, for the fifth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina.