Location, location, location: Variation in sensitivity to pain across the body

Journal article


Tracy, Lincoln M., Georgiou-Karistianis, Nellie, Gibson, Stephen J. and Giummarra, Melita J.. (2016). Location, location, location: Variation in sensitivity to pain across the body. European Journal of Pain. 20(10), pp. 1721 - 1729. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.895
AuthorsTracy, Lincoln M., Georgiou-Karistianis, Nellie, Gibson, Stephen J. and Giummarra, Melita J.
Abstract

Background: There is evidence that sensitivity to noxious stimuli differs between the sexes and across the body, but few studies have investigated differences in the perception and experience of acute pain stimuli across the body in healthy individuals. Methods: We recruited 52 healthy participants, aged 18–36 (50% men) and administered 39, 42 and 45 °C stimuli at four body sites bilaterally to examine differences in the experience of pain intensity and unpleasantness between body sites via an 11‐point numerical rating scale. Results: Noxious and innocuous thermal heat stimuli were perceived as significantly more intense when delivered to the wrist (M = 3.98, SD = 1.93) and back (M = 4.07, SD = 1.98) compared to the shoulder (M = 3.45, SD = 1.91) and leg (M = 3.46, SD = 1.87). Pain unpleasantness ratings yielded similar findings; stimuli were perceived as more unpleasant when administered to the wrist (M = 2.83, SD = 1.93) and lower back (M = 3.04, SD = 2.11) compared to the shoulder (M = 2.63, SD = 1.85) and leg (M = 2.26, SD = 1.82). Conclusions: These findings suggest that painful thermal stimuli delivered to the wrist and back are perceived as more intense and unpleasant compared with other body sites in healthy persons. These differences may be due to variations in receptor density, or the relative importance of these sites for daily living and survival. Significance: Moreover, these insights are helpful for the design of studies investigating pain experience in healthy persons in experimental or clinical settings. What does this study add? We tested sensitivity to acute suprathreshold thermal stimulations across a range of body sites to investigate for potential variability. We found significant differences in the perceived intensity and unpleasantness of noxious and innocuous thermal stimuli at the wrist and lower back, compared with the shoulder and leg. These results suggest that pain experience is driven by receptor density or the relative functional importance of these sites.

Year2016
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Journal citation20 (10), pp. 1721 - 1729
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
ISSN1090-3801
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.895
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84971401563
Page range1721 - 1729
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Controlled
Grant IDARC/LP120200033
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
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