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The influence of repeated pain stimulation on the emotional aspect of pain: a preliminary study in healthy volunteers

Authors Maeoka H, Hiyamizu M, Matsuo A, Morioka S

Received 16 April 2015

Accepted for publication 21 May 2015

Published 23 July 2015 Volume 2015:8 Pages 431—436


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael E Schatman

Hiroshi Maeoka, Makoto Hiyamizu, Atsushi Matsuo, Shu Morioka
Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Health Science, Kio University, Koryo-cho, Kitakatsuragi-gun, Nara, Japan

Purpose: Pain is a multidimensional experience with sensory-discriminative, cognitive-evaluative, and affective-motivational components. Emotional factors, such as unpleasantness or anxiety, are known to have influence on pain in humans. Repeated painful stimulation has been reported to reduce subjective pain intensity. Nevertheless, there is little evidence of the influence of such stimulation on the emotional factors of pain. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of repeated painful stimulation on the experience of unpleasantness and anxiety.
Materials and methods: Eight subjects (six females, two males) volunteered to participate in this study. Subjects received repeated painful stimulation for 3 consecutive days each instance lasting 6 seconds, 60 times per day, on the medial side of the forearm of the nondominant hand. We examined the following items to evaluate changes of responses to painful stimulation: pain thresholds, pain tolerance levels, pain intensities, unpleasantness, and anxiety. Furthermore, pain thresholds and pain tolerance levels were compared between different sites on the ipsilateral and contralateral forearms.
Results: No immediate or chronological changes in pain thresholds or pain tolerance levels were observed. Pain intensities were reduced significantly over the 3-day experimental period (P<0.05). On the other hand, there was no great change in unpleasantness during the 3-day period. Anxiety was increased significantly after the painful stimulation compared with that without the painful stimulation and before day 1 of the stimulation (P<0.05).
Conclusion: These results suggest that repeated painful stimulation may result in habituation to pain intensities but not habituation to emotional factors.

Keywords: anxiety, unpleasantness, pain intensity, habituation

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