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Arthritis Rheum. 2013 Jun;65(6):1494-503. doi: 10.1002/art.37920.

Neuropathic pain in ankylosing spondylitis: a psychophysics and brain imaging study.

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  • 1Toronto Western Research Institute at Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



To determine whether there is a neuropathic component in ankylosing spondylitis (AS) back pain and to delineate gray matter brain abnormalities associated with AS.


Seventeen patients with back pain secondary to AS who were not receiving biologic agents and 17 age- and sex-matched healthy controls consented to participate in the study and were assessed using the painDETECT instrument (scores of ≤12 indicating low probability of neuropathic pain) and the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Mechanical and thermal thresholds were determined in all subjects, and brain gray matter was assessed by 3T magnetic resonance imaging.


Eleven of the 17 AS patients had painDETECT scores of >12. The patients had decreased mechanical and cold sensitivity on the dorsum of their feet but did not have altered pain thresholds. Compared to controls, the AS patients exhibited cortical thinning in the primary somatosensory, insular, anterior cingulate, and anterior mid-cingulate cortices and the supplemental motor area, and increased gray matter volume in the thalamus and putamen. Scores on the painDETECT in AS patients were correlated with decreased gray matter in the primary somatosensory cortex and with increased gray matter in the motor cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, prefrontal cortex, thalamus, and striatum.


The present findings indicate that neuropathic pain occurs in AS. Furthermore, abnormal brain gray matter and neural correlates of neuropathic pain are concordant with the clinical picture of AS, which includes sensorimotor and mood deficits as well as neuropathic pain symptoms. These results suggest that back pain in AS is a mixed pain condition that includes a neuropathic pain component.

Copyright © 2013 by the American College of Rheumatology.

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