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      Does self-perception of sensitivity to pain correlate with actual sensitivity to experimental pain?

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          People often state that they are “sensitive” or “insensitive” to pain. However, the accuracy and clinical relevance of such statements is unclear.


          The aim of this study was to search for associations between self-perception of sensitivity to pain and experimental pain measures, including known psychophysical inhibitory or excitatory pain paradigms.

          Subjects and methods

          Subjective sensitivity to pain was reported by 75 healthy participants and included three self-perceived variables: pain threshold, pain sensitivity and pain intensity in response to a hypothetical painful event (hypothetical pain intensity [HPI]). Experimental pain measures consisted of thermal pain threshold (°C), suprathreshold thermal pain intensity (Visual Analog Scale, 0–100) and the psychophysical paradigms of conditioned pain modulation (CPM) and temporal summation (TS), representing inhibitory and excitatory pain processes, respectively.


          No significant correlations were found between self-perceived pain threshold or pain sensitivity and any of the experimental pain measures. In contrast, the reported HPI correlated with thermal pain threshold ( r = −0.282; p = 0.014), suprathreshold thermal pain intensity ( r = 0.367; p = 0.001) and CPM ( r = 0.233; p = 0.044), but not with TS.


          Self-perception of pain sensitivity articulated by intangible expressions such as pain threshold or pain sensitivity is unrelated to actual sensitivity to experimental pain. In contrast, when measured by intensity of a hypothetical painful event (HPI), sensitivity to pain is associated with some, but not all, experimental pain reports. Further studies are needed for better understanding of these associations and their potential clinical significance.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Pain sensitivity can be assessed by self-rating: Development and validation of the Pain Sensitivity Questionnaire.

          Experimental determination of pain sensitivity has received increasing attention because of emerging clinical applications (including prediction of postoperative pain and treatment response) and scientific implications (e.g. it has been proposed that above-average pain sensitivity is a risk factor for the development of chronic pain disorders). However, the use of experimental pain sensitivity assessment on a broad scale is hampered by its requirements on time, equipment and human resources and the fact that it is painful for the tested subject. Alternatives to experimental pain testing are currently lacking. Here we developed a self-rating instrument for the assessment of pain sensitivity, the Pain Sensitivity Questionnaire (PSQ) that is based on pain intensity ratings of daily life situations and takes 5-10min to complete. Adequate reliability of the PSQ was confirmed in 354 subjects. In a validation study comprising 47 healthy subjects, the results of comprehensive experimental pain testing, including different modalities (heat, cold, pressure, and pinprick) and different measures (pain thresholds, pain intensity ratings), were compared to the results of the PSQ. PSQ scores were significantly correlated to experimental pain intensity ratings (r = 0.56, p < 0.001) but not to pain thresholds (r = 0.03). Prediction of experimental pain intensity ratings by the PSQ was better than by pain-associated psychological factors (pain catastrophizing, depression, anxiety). This shows that the PSQ may be a simple alternative to experimental pain intensity rating procedures in healthy subjects and makes the PSQ a highly promising tool for clinical and experimental pain research.
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            Individual differences in pain sensitivity: measurement, causation, and consequences.

            Not only are some clinical conditions experienced as more painful than others, but the variability in pain ratings of patients with the same disease or trauma is enormous. Available evidence indicates that to a large extent these differences reflect individual differences in pain sensitivity. Pain sensitivity can be estimated only through the use of well-controlled experimental pain stimuli. Such estimates show substantial heritability but equally important environmental effects. The genetic and environmental factors that influence pain sensitivity differ across pain modalities. For example, genetic factors that influence cold pressor pain have little impact on phasic heat pain and visa versa. Individual differences in pain sensitivity can complicate diagnosis, among other reasons because low sensitivity to pain may delay self-referral. Inclusion of patients with reduced pain sensitivity can attenuate treatment effects in clinical trials, unless controlled for. Measures of pain sensitivity are predictive of acute postoperative pain, and there is preliminary evidence that heightened pain sensitivity increases risk for future chronic pain conditions. At this time, however, it is unclear which experimental pain modalities should be used as predictors for future pain conditions. Careful assessment of each individual's pain sensitivity may become invaluable for the prevention, evaluation, and treatment of pain. Large individual differences in pain sensitivity can complicate diagnosis and pain treatment and can confound clinical trials. Pain sensitivity may also be of great importance for the development of clinical pain. Thus, assessment of pain sensitivity may be relevant for the prevention, evaluation, and treatment of acute and chronic pain.
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              Multifactorial preoperative predictors for postcesarean section pain and analgesic requirement.

              The study aimed to determine predictive factors for postcesarean pain and analgesia using an assessment of pain threshold and suprathreshold thermal stimuli as well as degree of somatization and anxiety. Thirty-four healthy parturients scheduled for cesarean delivery under subarachnoid anesthesia were enrolled. Preoperative thermal pain threshold, intensity, and unpleasantness to heat stimuli applied to arm and lower back, State Trait Anxiety Inventory, and patient expectation for postoperative pain and need for analgesia were assessed. After surgery, overall, resting, and movement pain and analgesic consumption were recorded. Prediction of pain and analgesic use outcomes was made by principal component factor analysis, followed by stepwise linear regression. Resting pain was predicted by two factors, thermal pain and unpleasantness and patient expectation (r2 = 0.26, P < 0.01), evoked pain by thermal pain threshold in the back (r2= 0.20, P < 0.009), composite pain by thermal pain and unpleasantness and preoperative blood pressure (r2 = 0.28, P < 0.008), intraoperative analgesic need by preexisting pain (r2 = 0.22, P < 0.006), recovery room analgesia by thermal pain threshold and State Trait Anxiety Inventory (r2 = 0.27, P < 0.01), and total analgesic need by State Trait Anxiety Inventory (r2 = 0.22, P < 0.01). These models predicted the upper twentieth percentile of composite pain scores and analgesic requirement with sensitivity of 0.71 to 0.80 and specificity of 0.76 to 0.80. The authors' results suggest a meaningful combination of preoperative patient responses from physical and psychological tests yields a valid multifactorial predictive model for postoperative pain and analgesic requirement with significant improvements over individual predictive variables.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                Journal of Pain Research
                Dove Medical Press
                13 November 2017
                : 10
                : 2657-2663
                [1 ]The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology
                [2 ]Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa
                [3 ]Institute of Pain Medicine, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Doron Meiselles, The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, 1 Efron Street, Haifa 3525422, Israel, Tel/fax +972 4 983 5792, Email doron.meis@ 123456gmail.com

                These authors contributed equally to this work

                © 2017 Meiselles et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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