Chronic musculoskeletal pain: review of mechanisms and biochemical biomarkers as assessed by the microdialysis technique
Björn Gerdle,1,2 Bijar Ghafouri,1,3 Malin Ernberg,4 Britt Larsson1,2
1Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; 2Pain and Rehabilitation Centre, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden; 3Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden; 4Department of Dental Medicine, Section of Orofacial Pain and Jaw Function, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden
Abstract: Chronic musculoskeletal pain conditions are multifaceted, and approximately 20% of the adult population lives with severe chronic pain, with a higher prevalence in women and in lower income groups. Chronic pain is influenced by and interacts with physical, emotional, psychological, and social factors, and a biopsychosocial framework is increasingly applied in clinical practice. However, there is still a lack of assessment procedures based on the activated neurobiological pain mechanisms (ie, the biological part of the biopsychosocial model of pain), which may be a necessary step for further optimizing outcomes after treatments for patients with chronic pain. It has been suggested that chronic pain conditions are mainly driven by alterations in the central nervous system with little or no peripheral stimuli or nociception. In contrast, other authors argue that such central alterations are driven by peripheral alterations and nociceptive input. Microdialysis is an in vivo method for studying local tissue alterations and allows for sampling of substances in the interstitium of the muscle, where nociceptor free nerve endings are found close to the muscle fibers. The extracellular matrix plays a key role in physiologic functions of cells, including the primary afferent nociceptor. The present review mainly concerns the results of microdialysis studies and how they can contribute to the understanding of activated peripheral nociceptive and pain mechanisms in humans with chronic pain. The primary aim was to review molecular studies using microdialysis for the investigation of human chronic muscle pain, ie, chronic masticatory muscle pain, chronic trapezius myalgia, chronic whiplash-associated disorders, and chronic widespread pain/fibromyalgia syndrome. Several studies clearly showed elevated levels of serotonin, glutamate, lactate, and pyruvate in localized chronic myalgias and may be potential biomarkers. These results indicate that peripheral muscle alterations are parts of the activated pain mechanisms in common chronic pain conditions. Muscle alterations have been reported in fibromyalgia syndrome and chronic widespread pain, but more studies are needed before definite conclusions can be drawn. For other substances, results are inconclusive across studies and patient groups.
Keywords: algesic, biomarker, human, metabolism, nociception, pain
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