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      Multisensory Sensitivity is Related to Deep-Tissue but Not Cutaneous Pain Sensitivity in Healthy Individuals

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          Some individuals with chronic pain find daily life sensations (eg, noise, light, or touch) aversive. This amplification of multisensory sensations has been associated with centrally mediated plasticity; for example, greater multisensory sensitivity (MSS) occurs in patients with fibromyalgia than rheumatoid arthritis. However, whether MSS preferentially relates to pain measures which reflect central influences (eg, dynamic quantitative sensory testing (QST) or referred pain), or whether the MSS-pain relationship requires priming from chronic pain, is unknown. Thus, this cross-sectional study investigated the relationships between MSS assessed in a pain-free state and evoked pain sensitivity.


          Experimental intramuscular infusion pain and multiple static and dynamic QST were assessed in 465 healthy, pain-free adults: pain thresholds using pressure (PPTs) and heat (HPTs), temporal summation of pain (TSP) using pressure, heat or punctate stimuli, and conditioned pain modulation (CPM) using pressure or heat test stimuli. MSS was assessed using 7 items from Barsky’s Somatosensory Amplification Scale. Differences in pain and QST between sex-specific MSS quartiles were assessed, adjusting for multiple comparisons. All participants completed at least one intramuscular infusion condition, but not all were asked to complete each QST (n=166-465).


          Both static and dynamic QST differed between highest and lowest MSS quartiles using pressure stimuli: lower PPTs (adjusted-p<0.01); increased pressure TSP (adjusted-p=0.02); lower pressure CPM (adjusted-p=0.01). However, none of the heat or punctate QST measures (HPTs, TSP, or CPM) differed between MSS quartiles (adjusted-p>0.05). Odds of experiencing TSP or referred pain was not greater, whereas CPM was 8-fold less likely, in those with highest MSS.


          Normal variation in non-noxious MSS is related to both static and dynamic pain sensitivity, without sensitization associated with chronic pain, but is dependent on the QST stimulus. Thus, common influences on MSS and pain sensitivity may involve central mechanisms but are likely more complex than previously recognized.

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          Most cited references 76

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          Sex differences in pain and pain inhibition: multiple explanations of a controversial phenomenon.

           Jeffrey Mogil (2012)
          A clear majority of patients with chronic pain are women; however, it has been surprisingly difficult to determine whether this sex bias corresponds to actual sex differences in pain sensitivity. A survey of the currently available epidemiological and laboratory data indicates that the evidence for clinical and experimental sex differences in pain is overwhelming. Various explanations for this phenomenon have been given, ranging from experiential and sociocultural differences in pain experience between men and women to hormonally and genetically driven sex differences in brain neurochemistry.
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            Diffuse noxious inhibitory controls (DNIC). I. Effects on dorsal horn convergent neurones in the rat.

            (1) Sixty-eight convergent dorsal horn neurones have been recorded at the lumbar level in anaesthetized intact rats. All cells received prominent A alpha and C fibre afferents and correspondingly could be activated by high and low threshold stimuli applied to the peripheral excitatory receptive field. (2) The activity of 67/68 of these neurones was powerfully inhibited by noxious stimuli applied to various parts of the body. Since non-noxious stimuli were ineffective in this respect, the term "diffuse noxious inhibitory controls" (DNIC) is proposed. (3) DNIC could be evoked by noxious pinch applied to the tail, the contralateral hind paw, the forepaws, the ears and the muzzle; the most effective areas were the tail and muzzle. Noxious heat applied to and transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the tail were extemely effective in eliciting DNIC as was the intraperitoneal injection of bradykinin. (4) DNIC strongly depressed by 60-100% both the C fibre response following suprathreshold transcutaneous electrical stimulation and the responses to noxious radiant heat. (5) The spontaneous activity and the responses to low threshold afferents induced either by A alpha threshold electrical or natural stimulation were also powerfully inhibited. (6) In the majority of cases, long lasting post-effects directly related to the duration of conditioning painful stimulus were observed.
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              Central sensitization: implications for the diagnosis and treatment of pain.

              Nociceptor inputs can trigger a prolonged but reversible increase in the excitability and synaptic efficacy of neurons in central nociceptive pathways, the phenomenon of central sensitization. Central sensitization manifests as pain hypersensitivity, particularly dynamic tactile allodynia, secondary punctate or pressure hyperalgesia, aftersensations, and enhanced temporal summation. It can be readily and rapidly elicited in human volunteers by diverse experimental noxious conditioning stimuli to skin, muscles or viscera, and in addition to producing pain hypersensitivity, results in secondary changes in brain activity that can be detected by electrophysiological or imaging techniques. Studies in clinical cohorts reveal changes in pain sensitivity that have been interpreted as revealing an important contribution of central sensitization to the pain phenotype in patients with fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal disorders with generalized pain hypersensitivity, headache, temporomandibular joint disorders, dental pain, neuropathic pain, visceral pain hypersensitivity disorders and post-surgical pain. The comorbidity of those pain hypersensitivity syndromes that present in the absence of inflammation or a neural lesion, their similar pattern of clinical presentation and response to centrally acting analgesics, may reflect a commonality of central sensitization to their pathophysiology. An important question that still needs to be determined is whether there are individuals with a higher inherited propensity for developing central sensitization than others, and if so, whether this conveys an increased risk in both developing conditions with pain hypersensitivity, and their chronification. Diagnostic criteria to establish the presence of central sensitization in patients will greatly assist the phenotyping of patients for choosing treatments that produce analgesia by normalizing hyperexcitable central neural activity. We have certainly come a long way since the first discovery of activity-dependent synaptic plasticity in the spinal cord and the revelation that it occurs and produces pain hypersensitivity in patients. Nevertheless, discovering the genetic and environmental contributors to and objective biomarkers of central sensitization will be highly beneficial, as will additional treatment options to prevent or reduce this prevalent and promiscuous form of pain plasticity. Copyright © 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                07 October 2020
                : 13
                : 2493-2508
                [1 ]Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa , Iowa City, IA, USA
                [2 ]United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) , Natick, MA, USA
                [3 ]Department of Psychology, Mount Mercy University , Cedar Rapids, IA, USA
                [4 ]College of Nursing, University of Iowa , Iowa City, IA, USA
                [5 ]Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP), SMI, Aalborg University , Aalborg, Denmark
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Laura A Frey-Law Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa , 1-252 Medical Education Bldg., 500 Newton Road, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA52242, USATel +1 319-335-9804Fax +1 319-335-9707 Email laura-freylaw@uiowa.edu
                © 2020 Wang 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. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 5, References: 84, Pages: 16
                Funded by: the National Institutes of Health NIAMS grant;
                Funded by: the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Collaborative Research Award, and University of Iowa Clinical & Translational Science Award;
                Funded by: the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences;
                Funded by: the US Army (student support for SLM);
                Funded by: the Danish National Research Foundation;
                This research was supported in part by funding from the National Institutes of Health NIAMS grant #s: K01AR056134 and R03AR065197; the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Collaborative Research Award, and University of Iowa Clinical & Translational Science Award UL1TR002537 (REDCap) from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; and the US Army (student support for SLM). The Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP) is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF121).
                Original Research


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