JOURNAL ARTICLE

Slow temporal summation of pain for assessment of central pain sensitivity and clinical pain of fibromyalgia patients

Roland Staud, Elizabeth E Weyl, Joseph L Riley, Roger B Fillingim
PloS One 2014, 9 (2): e89086
24558475

BACKGROUND: In healthy individuals slow temporal summation of pain or wind-up (WU) can be evoked by repetitive heat-pulses at frequencies of ≥.33 Hz. Previous WU studies have used various stimulus frequencies and intensities to characterize central sensitization of human subjects including fibromyalgia (FM) patients. However, many trials demonstrated considerable WU-variability including zero WU or even wind-down (WD) at stimulus intensities sufficient for activating C-nociceptors. Additionally, few WU-protocols have controlled for contributions of individual pain sensitivity to WU-magnitude, which is critical for WU-comparisons. We hypothesized that integration of 3 different WU-trains into a single WU-response function (WU-RF) would not only control for individuals' pain sensitivity but also better characterize their central pain responding including WU and WD.

METHODS: 33 normal controls (NC) and 38 FM patients participated in a study of heat-WU. We systematically varied stimulus intensities of.4 Hz heat-pulse trains applied to the hands. Pain summation was calculated as difference scores of 1st and 5th heat-pulse ratings. WU-difference (WU-Δ) scores related to 3 heat-pulse trains (44°C, 46°C, 48°C) were integrated into WU-response functions whose slopes were used to assess group differences in central pain sensitivity. WU-aftersensations (WU-AS) at 15 s and 30 s were used to predict clinical FM pain intensity.

RESULTS: WU-Δ scores linearly accelerated with increasing stimulus intensity (p<.001) in both groups of subjects (FM>NC) from WD to WU. Slope of WU-RF, which is representative of central pain sensitivity, was significantly steeper in FM patients than NC (p<.003). WU-AS predicted clinical FM pain intensity (Pearson's r = .4; p<.04).

CONCLUSIONS: Compared to single WU series, WU-RFs integrate individuals' pain sensitivity as well as WU and WD. Slope of WU-RFs was significantly different between FM patients and NC. Therefore WU-RF may be useful for assessing central sensitization of chronic pain patients in research and clinical practice.

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