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Eur J Pain. 2007 Jul;11(5):594-8. Epub 2006 Nov 22.

Self-reported pain sensitivity: lack of correlation with pain threshold and tolerance.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA.


Many recent studies and several reviews have highlighted the potential clinical applications of experimental pain testing (e.g., for predicting post-surgical pain, treatment responsiveness, etc.). However, the implementation of quantitative sensory testing of pain sensitivity on a broad scale is limited by requirements of time, equipment, and expertise, and their associated costs. One reasonable question is whether one can obtain, via self-report, a valid index of an individual's pain sensitivity and pain tolerance. We analyzed data from a large number of subjects (n=505) who had undergone standardized thermal pain testing, and found that while higher self-reported pain sensitivity was associated with higher scores on a measure of anxiety, no relationship was observed between subjects' self-report of pain sensitivity and subjects' actual pain threshold or tolerance. These findings suggest that circumventing psychophysical pain testing by assessing individuals' self-reported pain sensitivity is unlikely to be a useful strategy.

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