Spatial summation of mechanically evoked muscle pain and painful aftersensations in normal subjects and Fibromyalgia patients

Journal: Pain. 2007 Apr 23; [E-publication ahead of print]

Authors and affiliations: Staud R, Koo E, Robinson ME, Price DD. Department of Medicine, University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Florida, USA.

PMID: 17459587

Impulse frequency and number of recruited central neurons are relevant for pain encoding and temporal as well as spatial summation of pain (SSP). Whereas SSP of heat-induced pain is well characterized, mechanical SSP (MSSP) has been less studied. MSSP may be relevant for chronic pain conditions like Fibromyalgia (FM) and play an important role in the pathogenesis of this chronic pain syndrome.

Our study was designed to determine MSSP in 12 normal controls (NC) and 11 FM subjects. MSSP testing consisted of 5s suprathreshold pressure-pain stimulations of forearm muscles by up to three identical probes (separated by 4 or 8cm). The stimulated areas ranged between 0.79 and 2.37cm(2).

The subjects rated the pain intensity of mechanical stimuli as well as pain aftersensations. Although MSSP increased monotonically in NC and FM subjects, pressure pain and pressure pain aftersensations were greater in FM subjects and highly associated with clinical pain intensity (r(2)=.44-.64), suggesting that spatial and temporal summation factors may contribute to overall clinical pain. However, despite higher experimental pain ratings, the magnitude of MSSP was not statistically different between NC and FM subjects.

Furthermore, muscle stimuli elicited more MSSP when separated by 8cm than 4cm and this finding was not different between NC and FM subjects. Thus, mechanisms of MSSP were similar for both FM and NC subjects. The important role of MSSP for pain encoding suggests that decreasing pain in some muscle areas by local anesthetics or other means may improve overall clinical pain of FM patients.

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