Background: Arm pain is a common cause of incapacity for work and is often attributed to occupational activities, but in many cases the pathogenesis is unclear.
Objective: To investigate whether arm pain in the absence of identifiable underlying pathology is associated with reduced tolerance of painful sensory stimuli.
Methods: 133 incident cases of arm pain, recruited from primary care and physiotherapy services, were classified according to a validated diagnostic algorithm. Pain tolerance was measured at three sites in each arm in response to electrocutaneous stimulation. Associations with pain tolerance (the geometric mean of the six measurements at 5 Hz) were assessed by linear regression, and findings were summarised as proportional changes in pain tolerance.
Results: Pain tolerance was generally lower than in an earlier community survey. Women had a lower tolerance than men. After allowance for sex, age, use of analgesics and anatomical extent of pain, there was no indication of reduced tolerance in patients with non-specific pain relative to those with specific local pathology.
Conclusions: Pain tolerance may be generally reduced in patients presenting to medical services with arm pain, but those with non-specific pain do not seem to have lower tolerance than those with identifiable local pathology.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.
Published Online First 19 December 2006
Competing interests: None declared.