Adaptability to pain is associated with potency of local pain inhibition, but not conditioned pain modulation

This study examined the relationship between pain sensitivity, adaptability, and potency of endogenous pain inhibition, including conditioned pain modulation (CPM) and local pain inhibition. Forty-one healthy volunteers (20 male, 21 female) received conditioning stimulation (CS) over 2 sessions in a random order: tonic heat pain (46°C) on the right leg for 7minutes and cold pressor pain (1°C to 4°C) on the left hand for 5minutes. Participants rated the intensity of pain continuously using a 0 to 10 electronic visual analogue scale. The primary outcome measures were pressure pain thresholds (PPT) measured at the heterotopic and homotopic location to the CS sites prior to, during, and 20minutes post CS. Two groups of participants, pain adaptive and pain nonadaptive, were identified based on their response to pain in the cold pressor test. Pain-adaptive participants showed a pain reduction between peak pain and pain at end of the test by at least 2 of 10 (n=16); whereas the pain-nonadaptive participants reported unchanged peak pain during 5-minute CS (n=25). Heterotopic PPTs during the CS did not differ between the 2 groups. However, increased homotopic PPTs measured 20minutes post CS correlated with the amount of pain reduction during CS. These results suggest that individual sensitivity and adaptability to pain does not correlate with the potency of CPM. Adaptability to pain is associated with longer-lasting local pain inhibition.

Participants showed reactions adaptive or nonadaptive to pain during cold pressor. The 2 groups differed in local pain inhibition, but not in conditioned pain modulation.