Pressure and cold pain threshold reference values in a large, young adult, pain-free population
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Background and aims Currently there is a lack of large population studies that have investigated pain sensitivity distributions in healthy pain free people. The aims of this study were: (1) to provide sex-specific reference values of pressure and cold pain thresholds in young pain-free adults; (2) to examine the association of potential correlates of pain sensitivity with pain threshold values. Methods This study investigated sex specific pressure and cold pain threshold estimates for young pain free adults aged 21–24 years. A cross-sectional design was utilised using participants (n = 617) from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study at the 22-year follow-up. The association of site, sex, height, weight, smoking, health related quality of life, psychological measures and activity with pain threshold values was examined. Pressure pain threshold (lumbar spine, tibialis anterior, neck and dorsal wrist) and cold pain threshold (dorsal wrist) were assessed using standardised quantitative sensory testing protocols. Results Reference values for pressure pain threshold (four body sites) stratified by sex and site, and cold pain threshold (dorsal wrist) stratified by sex are provided. Statistically significant, independent correlates of increased pressure pain sensitivity measures were site (neck, dorsal wrist), sex (female), higher waist-hip ratio and poorer mental health. Statistically significant, independent correlates of increased cold pain sensitivity measures were, sex (female), poorer mental health and smoking. Conclusions These data provide the most comprehensive and robust sex specific reference values for pressure pain threshold specific to four body sites and cold pain threshold at the dorsal wrist for young adults aged 21–24 years. Establishing normative values in this young age group is important given that the transition from adolescence to adulthood is a critical temporal period during which trajectories for persistent pain can be established. Implications These data will provide an important research resource to enable more accurate profiling and interpretation of pain sensitivity in clinical pain disorders in young adults. The robust and comprehensive data can assist interpretation of future clinical pain studies and provide further insight into the complex associations of pain sensitivity that can be used in future research.
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