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 in Charleston, MUSC is the oldest medical school in the South, as well as the state’s only integrated, academic health sciences center with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and more than 850 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. The state’s leader in obtaining biomedical research funds, in fiscal year 2019, MUSC set a new high, bringing in more than $284 million. Find out more about our academic programs.

As the health care system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality and safest patient care while educating and training generations of outstanding health care providers and leaders to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Patient care is provided at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and five additional hospital locations in development, more than 350 telehealth sites and connectivity to patients’ homes, and nearly 750 care locations situated in all regions of South Carolina. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. Learn more about clinical patient services.

MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $4.4 billion. The nearly 25,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.