Affective pain modulation in fibromyalgia, somatoform pain disorder, back pain, and healthy controls

By Bettina S. Arnold, Georg W. Alpers, Holger Suß, Eckart Friedel, Gregor Kosmutzky, Antje Geier, Paul Pauli

European Journal of Pain 12 (2008) 329–338

Corresponding author. Tel.: +49 931 312840; fax: +49 931 312733. E-mail address: (G.W. Alpers).

Previous research suggested that patients with fibromyalgia (FM) experience a higher pain intensity (clinical pain) than do patients with musculoskeletal pain after negative emotional priming compared to positive priming. To further examine affective pain modulation in FM, we applied an experimental pain induction to compare 30 patients with FM with 30 healthy (pain-free) participants (HC), and 30 patients with back pain (BP). For another group of 30 patients with somatoform pain disorder (SF), we predicted the same pain modulation as for FM. As primes we presented positive, neutral, negative, and pain-related pictures and assessed pain intensity in response to a fixed pressure weight. Overall, picture valence modulated pain intensities (in the order of pain-related > negative pictures > neutral), but the pain intensities between neutral and positive pictures did not differ significantly.

SF reported significantly higher pain intensities than did BP and HC; FM were in between, but did not differ significantly from the three other groups. There was no interaction of priming and group. Affective modulation of pain was not specifically altered in FM and SF, but SF were more sensitive to pressure pain than BP and HC.

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