PainSci summary of Holbert 2017?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆3-star ratings are for typical studies with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
Pain is more intense if the causes are more spread out (“spatial summation”), which may explain why some areas of the body are more prone to pain — because there’s simply a greater chance of more sources of pain. Specifically, it may explain why spinal pain is so prevalent: many potential sources of nociception in a region. This data shows that summation in the neck and back works about the same way that it does in the limbs. In any region, painful sites separated by as much as 15-20cm will be “summed” by the brain, making the entire area feel painful. So spinal pain is not more common because of casting a wider summation net. However, there may still be more to sum.
original abstract†Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The nociceptive system appears to have evolved a range of protective characteristics that are of great interest in understanding both acute and chronic pain. Spatial summation is one important characteristic, whereby increasing area of a stimulus, or distance between multiple stimuli, results in more intense pain-not only greater area of pain. One of the mysteries of chronic pain is why spinal pain is so prevalent relative to pain at other sites. Since pathological tissue models have failed to fully explain spinal pain, we theorized that body region specific differences in sensory processing-such as a greater propensity for spatial summation-may help to explain its vulnerability. We aimed to examine this by comparing the properties of summation at different body parts: the dorsal forearm, neck, and back.
METHODS: Spatial summation of pain was investigated using noxious intra-dermal electrical stimuli in healthy pain-free adults (14 males, 6 females), and the perceived pain intensity was rated on a 0-100 pain scale. Area-based stimulation was investigated by doubling the stimulation area with the addition of a second electrode placed adjacent to the first. Distance-based summation was investigated by randomly varying the separation distance between paired noxious electrical stimuli at separations of 0, 10, 15, and 20cm.
RESULTS: This study demonstrated that the properties of area- and distance-based summation are uniform across the neck, back, and forearm in healthy adults. Spatial summation of pain was also found to be greatest at 15- and 20-cm paired separations for all body regions tested, confirming that noxious information can be integrated over an extensive anatomical area.
CONCLUSION: Data from this investigation refutes the thesis that spatial summation of pain may be a contributing factor for the reported difference in chronicity rates between spinal and peripheral sites. It remains, however, a potentially important mechanism by which noxious inputs from multi-level pathology might integrate and contribute to pain.
IMPLICATIONS: While data from this project suggest that there are no regional differences in the properties of spatial summation of noxious stimuli, regional differences in other characteristics of the nociceptive system may yet provide insight into why some spinal pain is so highly prevalent; nociceptive distance-based summation may be highly relevant where two or more conditions co-exist in close proximity.
Specifically regarding Holbert 2017:
These three articles on PainScience.com cite Holbert 2017 as a source:
- PS Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain Syndrome — A guide to the unfinished science of muscle pain, with reviews of every theory and self-treatment and therapy option
- PS Save Yourself from Neck Pain! — A complete guide to chronic neck pain and the disturbing sensation of a “crick”
- PS 33 Surprising Causes of Pain — Trying to understand pain when there is no obvious explanation
This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog. A few highlights:
- A Bayesian model-averaged meta-analysis of the power pose effect with informed and default priors: the case of felt power. Gronau 2017 Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology.
- The neck and headaches. Bogduk 2014 Neurol Clin.
- Agreement of self-reported items and clinically assessed nerve root involvement (or sciatica) in a primary care setting. Konstantinou 2012 Eur Spine J.
- Effect of NSAIDs on Recovery From Acute Skeletal Muscle Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Morelli 2017 Am J Sports Med.
- Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Paige 2017 JAMA.