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      The effect of nonrecurring alcohol administration on pain perception in humans: a systematic review

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          Alcohol is believed to have pain-dampening effects and is often used as self-medication by persons with pain problems; however, experimental evidence confirming this effect is scarce. We conducted a systematic review of experimental studies on the effects of nonrecurring alcohol administration on pain perception in healthy human subjects and the underlying mechanisms.


          Three databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, and Web of Science) were searched for relevant studies using a predefined algorithm. In a next step, irrelevant articles were excluded by screening titles and abstracts. Finally, articles were checked regarding a set of methodological criteria; only publications meeting these criteria were selected for this review. A total of 14 experimental studies were identified.


          Overall, most of the studies were able to show a pain-dampening effect of alcohol. However, many of them had methodological shortcomings (eg, lack of placebo control, insufficient blinding, or very small sample sizes). In addition, comparability is limited due to considerable variations in alcohol administration and pain measurement. More importantly, potential mechanisms of action and moderating variables have scarcely been investigated.


          Despite the frequent use of alcohol as self-medication by persons with pain problems, there are to date only a few experimental investigations of alcohol effects on pain perceptions. The results of these studies suggest that alcohol does in fact have pain-dampening effects. However, the mechanisms implicated in these effects are still unknown, and experimental research has been limited to pain-free subjects. Future research should provide more knowledge about alcohol effects on pain, especially in chronic pain patients.

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          Most cited references 56

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          State-dependent opioid control of pain.

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            Prediction of chronic post-operative pain: pre-operative DNIC testing identifies patients at risk.

            Surgical and medical procedures, mainly those associated with nerve injuries, may lead to chronic persistent pain. Currently, one cannot predict which patients undergoing such procedures are 'at risk' to develop chronic pain. We hypothesized that the endogenous analgesia system is key to determining the pattern of handling noxious events, and therefore testing diffuse noxious inhibitory control (DNIC) will predict susceptibility to develop chronic post-thoracotomy pain (CPTP). Pre-operative psychophysical tests, including DNIC assessment (pain reduction during exposure to another noxious stimulus at remote body area), were conducted in 62 patients, who were followed 29.0+/-16.9 weeks after thoracotomy. Logistic regression revealed that pre-operatively assessed DNIC efficiency and acute post-operative pain intensity were two independent predictors for CPTP. Efficient DNIC predicted lower risk of CPTP, with OR 0.52 (0.33-0.77 95% CI, p=0.0024), i.e., a 10-point numerical pain scale (NPS) reduction halves the chance to develop chronic pain. Higher acute pain intensity indicated OR of 1.80 (1.28-2.77, p=0.0024) predicting nearly a double chance to develop chronic pain for each 10-point increase. The other psychophysical measures, pain thresholds and supra-threshold pain magnitudes, did not predict CPTP. For prediction of acute post-operative pain intensity, DNIC efficiency was not found significant. Effectiveness of the endogenous analgesia system obtained at a pain-free state, therefore, seems to reflect the individual's ability to tackle noxious events, identifying patients 'at risk' to develop post-intervention chronic pain. Applying this diagnostic approach before procedures that might generate pain may allow individually tailored pain prevention and management, which may substantially reduce suffering.
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              Pain and emotion: a biopsychosocial review of recent research.

              Research on emotion and pain has burgeoned. We review the last decade's literature, focusing on links between emotional processes and persistent pain. Neurobiological research documents the neural processes that distinguish affective from sensory pain dimensions, link emotion and pain, and generate central nervous system pain sensitization. Psychological research demonstrates that greater pain is related to emotional stress and limited emotional awareness, expression, and processing. Social research shows the potential importance of emotional communication, empathy, attachment, and rejection. Emotions are integral to the conceptualization, assessment, and treatment of persistent pain. Research should clarify when to eliminate or attenuate negative emotions, and when to access, experience, and express them. Theory and practice should integrate emotion into cognitive-behavioral models of persistent pain. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                Journal of Pain Research
                Dove Medical Press
                23 April 2015
                : 8
                : 175-187
                [1 ]Pathopsychology, University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany
                [2 ]Physiological Psychology, University of Bamberg, Bamberg, Germany
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Claudia Horn-Hofmann, Department of Psychology, Markusplatz 3, University of Bamberg, 96045 Bamberg, Germany, Tel +49 951 863 1798, Email claudia.horn-hofmann@ 123456uni-bamberg.de
                © 2015 Horn-Hofmann et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

                The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.


                Anesthesiology & Pain management

                alcohol, experimental pain, pain


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