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Eur J Pain. 2011 Apr;15(4):376-83. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpain.2010.08.011. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Reference values of mechanical and thermal pain tests in a pain-free population.

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University Department of Anaesthesiology and Pain Therapy, University Hospital of Bern, Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland.


Quantitative sensory tests are widely used in human research to evaluate the effect of analgesics and explore altered pain mechanisms, such as central sensitization. In order to apply these tests in clinical practice, knowledge of reference values is essential. The aim of this study was to determine the reference values of pain thresholds for mechanical and thermal stimuli, as well as withdrawal time for the cold pressor test in 300 pain-free subjects. Pain detection and pain tolerance thresholds to pressure, heat and cold were determined at three body sites: (1) lower back, (2) suprascapular region and (3) second toe (for pressure) or the lateral aspect of the leg (for heat and cold). The influences of gender, age, height, weight, body-mass index (BMI), body side of testing, depression, anxiety, catastrophizing and parameters of Short-Form 36 (SF-36) were analyzed by multiple regressions. Quantile regressions were performed to define the 5th, 10th and 25th percentiles as reference values for pain hypersensitivity and the 75th, 90th and 95th percentiles as reference values for pain hyposensitivity. Gender, age and/or the interaction of age with gender were the only variables that consistently affected the pain measures. Women were more pain sensitive than men. However, the influence of gender decreased with increasing age. In conclusion, normative values of parameters related to pressure, heat and cold pain stimuli were determined. Reference values have to be stratified by body region, gender and age. The determination of these reference values will now allow the clinical application of the tests for detecting abnormal pain reactions in individual patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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