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Eur J Pain. 2011 Jan;15(1):99-102. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2010.05.012. Epub 2010 Jun 14.

Classifying post-stroke shoulder pain: can the DN4 be helpful?

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Biomedical Signals & Systems, MIRA Institute for Biomedical Technology and Technical Medicine, University of Twente, The Netherlands.


The etiology of post-stroke shoulder pain (PSSP) is largely unclear and may involve both nociceptive and neuropathic mechanisms. No gold standard is present for PSSP diagnosis. The neuropathic pain diagnostic questionnaire (DN4), was originally developed to identify neuropathic pain in the clinical context. In this study we used the DN4 to categorize PSSP patients and compared symptoms and signs suggestive of either nociceptive or neuropathic pain. Pain complaints and sensory functions were compared between patients with chronic PSSP scoring at least four (DN4+, n=9) or less than four (DN4-, n=10) on the DN4. Pain was assessed using a numeric rating scale and the McGill pain questionnaire. Sensory functions were assessed using clinical examination and quantitative sensory testing combined with a cold pressor test. Patients classified as DN4+ reported constant pain, higher pain intensity, a higher impact of pain on daily living, more frequent loss of cold sensation, reduced QST thresholds at the unaffected side and increased QST thresholds at the affected side. Notably, several symptoms and signs suggestive of either neuropathic or nociceptive pain corresponded to the subgroups DN4+ and DN4- respectively. However, since the pathophysiological mechanisms remain unclear and none of the sensory signs could be exclusively related to either DN4+ or DN4-, PSSP prognosis and treatment should not be solely based on the DN4. Nonetheless, a thorough assessment of neuropathic and nociceptive pain complaints and somatosensory functions should be included in the diagnostic work-up of PSSP.

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