Moving in an environment of induced sensorimotor incongruence does not influence pain sensitivity in healthy volunteers

It has been suggested that in the same way that conflict between vestibular and visual inputs results in motion sickness, conflict between motor commands and sensory information associated with these commands may contribute to some chronic pain states. Attempts to test this hypothesis by artificially inducing a state of sensorimotor incongruence and assessing self-reported pain have produced equivocal results. To help clarify the effect sensorimotor incongruence has on pain we investigated the effect of moving in an environment of induced incongruence on pressure pain thresholds (PPT) and the pain experienced immediately on completion of PPT testing. Thirty-five healthy subjects performed synchronous and asynchronous upper-limb movements with and without mirror visual feedback in random order. PPT over the elbow and the pain evoked by testing was measured. Generalised linear mixed-models were performed for each outcome. Condition (four levels) and baseline values for each outcome were within-subject factors. The study did no find any effect of condition on PPT (p = 0.887) or pressure-evoked pain (p = 0.771). A sensitivity analysis using only the first PPT measure after each condition confirmed the result (p = 0.867).

The study found that inducing a state of movement related sensorimotor incongruence in the upper-limb of healthy volunteers does’ot influence PPT, nor the pain evoked by testing. The authors did not find any evidence that sensorimotor incongruence upregulates the nociceptive system in healthy volunteers.