Author(s): Bruehl S, Chung OY, Ward P, Johnson B, McCubbin JA
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Abstract Resting blood pressure is inversely correlated with acute pain sensitivity in healthy normotensives. This study tested: (1) whether endogenous opioid activity is necessary for this adaptive relationship to occur, (2) whether this relationship is altered in chronic low back pain (LBP), and (3) whether endogenous opioid dysfunction underlies any such alterations. Fifty-one pain-free normotensives and 44 normotensive chronic LBP sufferers received opioid blockade (8 mg naloxone i.v.) or placebo blockade (saline) in randomized, counterbalanced order in separate sessions. During each session, subjects participated in a 1-min finger pressure (FP) pain task followed by an ischemic (ISC) forearm pain task. Among pain-free normotensives, elevated resting systolic (SBP) and diastolic (DBP) blood pressure were associated with significantly higher ISC pain thresholds (P values <0.05). Elevated SBP was also associated with significantly lower FP pain ratings (P<0.05). Opioid blockade had no significant effect on the BP-pain relationships detected (P values >0.10). In combined groups analyses, a significant subject typexSBP interaction (P<0.005) was found on ISC pain threshold: elevated SBP was associated with higher pain threshold in pain-free controls, but with lower pain threshold in LBP subjects. Although subject typexBP interactions on FP and ISC pain ratings were not significant, inclusion of LBP subjects in these analyses resulted in the overall relationship between BP and pain sensitivity becoming positive (P values <0.05). Opioid blockade exerted no significant main or interaction effects in these combined groups analyses (p values >0.10). Higher DBP was associated with greater clinical pain intensity among the LBP subjects (P<0.001). Overall, these results suggest: (1) endogenous opioids do not mediate the inverse relationship between resting blood pressure and acute pain sensitivity in pain-free normotensives; (2) the BP-pain sensitivity relationship is altered in chronic pain, suggesting dysfunction in pain regulatory systems, and (3) these alterations are not related to opioid dysfunction.
This article was published in Pain
and referenced in Journal of Ergonomics