Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

UNLABELLED: Spatial summation of pain is well accepted but surprisingly understudied. Area-based summation refers to the increase in pain evoked by increasing the area of stimulation. Distance-based summation refers to the increase in pain evoked by increasing the distance between multiple stimuli. Although transcutaneous electrical stimulation has several advantages over other experimental pain paradigms, whether or not this modality evokes spatial summation remains unknown. We aimed to answer this question in order to lay the foundation for critical studies of spatial summation. Twenty-five healthy participants received stimuli on their forearm, and the primary outcome, pain intensity, was compared across 5 spatial configurations-1 with a single stimulus and 4 paired configurations at 0-, 5-, 10-, and 20-cm separations. Importantly, the potential confounder of a proximal-distal gradient in nociceptive sensitivity was removed in this study. Pain intensity was higher in response to the paired stimuli than in response to the single stimulus (P < .001), and the paired stimuli separated by 5, 10 and 20 cm, evoked greater pain than stimuli at a separation of 0 cm (P < .001), thus confirming both area- and distance-based summation, respectively. We conclude that transcutaneous electrical stimulation is appropriate for future investigations of spatial summation. PERSPECTIVE: Distance-based summation is likely implicated in some clinical pain. However, current understanding for spatial summation is limited. This study demonstrates that transcutaneous electrical stimulation is safe, feasible, and valid for future investigations of spatial summation and will allow critical questions to be answered.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.jpain.2014.10.001

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Pain

Publication Date

01/2015

Volume

16

Pages

11 - 18

Keywords

Spatial summation, distance-based summation, electrical stimulation, noxious, pain, Female, Forearm, Humans, Male, Models, Neurological, Pain, Pain Perception, Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation, Young Adult