Modulation of pressure pain thresholds during and following isometric contraction in patients with fibromyalgia and in healthy controls

E Kosek, J Ekholm, P Hansson
Pain 1996, 64 (3): 415-23
This study aimed at evaluating the influence of submaximal isometric contraction on pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) in 14 fibromyalgia (FM) patients and 14 healthy volunteers, before and after skin hypoesthesia. PPTs were determined with pressure algometry over m. quadriceps femoris before, during and following an isometric contraction. Maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) was assessed using a computerized dynamometer. A contraction of 22% MVC on average was held until exhaustion (max. 5 min) and PPTs were assessed every 30 sec. A local anesthetic cream and a control cream were applied following a double-blind design and PPTs were reassessed. In healthy volunteers PPTs increased during contraction (P < 0.001), then decreased after the end of contraction (P < 0.001) but remained above precontraction values during the 5 min of post-contraction assessments (P < 0.001). In FM patients PPTs decreased in the middle of the contraction period (P < 0.05) and remained below precontraction levels during the rest of the contraction period (P < 0.05) and during the 5 min of post-contraction assessment (immediately post-contraction NS; 2.5 min post-contraction P < 0.01; 5 min post-contraction P < 0.05). The normalized PPTs were significantly lower in patients than in controls during contraction (start P < 0.01; middle P < 0.001; end P < 0.001) and at all times during post-contraction assessments (P < 0.001). Anesthetic cream raised PPTs at rest in controls (P < 0.01) but not in FM patients, and did not influence contraction or post-contraction PPTs in either group. Therefore, the increased pressure pain sensibility in FM patients is more pronounced deep to the skin. The observed decrease of PPTs during isometric contraction in FM patients could be due to sensitization of mechanonociceptors caused by muscle ischemia and/or dysfunction in pain modulation during muscle contraction.

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