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Pain. 2005 Nov;118(1-2):215-23. Epub 2005 Oct 3.

Impairment of pain inhibition in chronic tension-type headache.

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  • 1Department of Physiological Psychology, University of Bamberg, Markusplatz 3, 96045 Bamberg, Germany.


Evidence has been accumulated suggesting that a dysfunction in pain inhibitory systems, i.e. in 'diffuse noxious inhibitory controls' (DNIC)-like mechanisms, might be-amongst other factors-responsible for the development of anatomically generalized chronic pain like fibromyalgia. The aim of the present study was to look for similar impairments in chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) as a regionally specific pain syndrome. Twenty-nine CTTH patients and 25 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects participated in the study. After baseline assessment of electrical detection and pain thresholds, tonic heat stimuli were concurrently applied by a thermode to the thigh to induce DNIC-like pain inhibition. Tonic heat stimuli were applied either slightly above ('pain' condition) or slightly below ('heat' condition) pain threshold. For determination of electrical detection and pain thresholds, electrocutaneous stimuli were administered either to the forearm (extra-cranial site) or to the temple (cranial site), using a multiple staircase procedure. The increase in the electrical detection and pain thresholds induced by concurrent tonic heat stimulation was significantly smaller in the CTTH patients than in the control subjects. This group difference was present during the 'pain' as well as the 'heat' condition. Furthermore, the electrical detection and pain thresholds were affected in this group-specific manner both at the forearm and at the temple. These findings suggest that patients with CTTH suffer from deficient DNIC-like pain inhibitory mechanisms in a similar manner, as do patients with anatomically generalized chronic pain like fibromyalgia.

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