Learned maintenance of pain: Muscle tension reduces central nervous system processing of painful stimulation in chronic and subchronic pain patients

Bärbel Knost, Herta Flor, Niels Birbaumer, Markus M. Schugens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The effect of level of muscle tension on the perception of painful stimuli was assessed in 13 chronic back pain patients, 14 subjects at high risk for chronic back pain, and 14 matched healthy controls. Subjects received painful intracutaneous electric stimuli to the forearm or the lower back while they produced either high or low muscle tension levels. Visual analog scale (VAS) ratings of acute pain were obtained after each trial. Electroencephalograms, electromyograms, skin conductance levels, and blood pressure were measured during the trials. Although subjective pain ratings were not significantly affected by muscle tension levels, the chronic pain patients displayed elevated N150 and N150/P260 amplitudes of the somatosensory-evoked potentials in the low as compared to the high muscle tension condition. The high risk group showed a trend toward higher N150 amplitudes in the low as compared to the high tension condition. The results of this study partially support the hypothesis that increases in muscle tension might serve as a pain-reducing mechanism in chronic pain patients and those at risk for chronicity, thus leading to a vicious pain-tension cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)755-764
Number of pages10
JournalPsychophysiology
Volume36
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999

Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • EMG
  • Muscle tension
  • Operant conditioning
  • Somatosensory-evoked potential (SEP)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Learned maintenance of pain: Muscle tension reduces central nervous system processing of painful stimulation in chronic and subchronic pain patients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this