Vibro-tactile stimulation of the neck reduces pain in people with cervical dystonia: a proof-of-concept study

Jiapeng Xu, Matteo Costanzo, Laura Avanzino, Davide Martino, Parisa Salehi, Stephanie Standal, Nicoletta Manzo, Parisa Alizadeh, Sara Terranova, Gaia Bonassi, Jinseok Oh, Antonella Conte, Jürgen Konczak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Pain is a common non-motor symptom in patients with cervical dystonia (CD), severely impacting their quality of life. The pathophysiology of CD is incompletely understood but it involves altered processing of proprioceptive and pain signals. Objectives: The purpose of this proof-of-concept study was to determine if vibro-tactile stimulation (VTS)—a non-invasive form of neuromodulation targeting the somatosensory system—can modulate neck pain in people with CD. Methods: In a multi-center study, 44 CD patients received VTS to sternocleidomastoid and/or trapezius muscles for up to 45 min under 9 different stimulation conditions that either targeted a single or a pair of muscles. The primary outcome measure was a perceived pain score (PPS) rated by participants on a 100-point analogue scale. Results: During VTS, 29/44 (66%) of participants experienced a reduction in PPS of at least 10% with 17/44 (39%) reporting a reduction in pain of 50% or higher. After VTS cessation, 57% of participants still reported a 10% or higher reduction in PPS. Effects were significant at the group level and persisted for up to 20 min post-treatment. No distinct optimal stimulation profiles were identified for specific CD phenotypes. Clinical markers of disease severity or duration did not predict the degree of VTS-induced pain reduction. Conclusion: This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the potential of VTS as a new non-invasive therapeutic option for treating neck pain associated with CD. Further research needs to delineate optimal dosage and long-term effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNeurological Sciences
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Focal dystonia
  • Human
  • Pain
  • Somatosensory
  • Vibration

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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