Is Tactile Acuity Altered in People With Chronic Pain?

Impaired tactile acuity in individuals with chronic pain conditions has been recommended to reflect altered cortical representation of the painful body part, and treatments that aim to improve tactile acuity in these conditions have exhibited clinical benefit. Whether abnormalities in tactile acuity are a consistent feature of chronic pain remains largely unknown. The objective of this review was to systematically evaluate the literature and use meta-analysis to establish whether tactile acuity is altered in people with chronic non-neuropathic pain. A systematic search of the literature for studies that investigated tactile acuity in people with chronic non-neuropathic pain and compared it to an appropriate control group was conducted. Sixteen studies, reporting data from 5 chronic pain conditions, were included. Data were available for 18 chronic pain populations (n=484) and 15 control populations (n=378). Our results suggest that tactile acuity is diminished in arthritis, complex regional pain syndrome, and chronic low back pain but not in burning mouth syndrome. The strength of the available evidence is weakened by somewhat inconsistent results and the high risk of bias seen in all of the included studies.

This systematic review synthesizes the evidence for tactile acuity deficits in individuals with chronic non-neuropathic pain. The findings indicate that tactile acuity deficits may be characteristic of chronic pain. That tactile acuity training may be beneficial for those with chronic pain disorders indicates that clinical trials may be called for.