Pain history and experimental pressure pain responses in adolescents: Results from a population‐based birth cohort

Maria Brandão, Makram Talih, Sinead Holden, Francisco Fernandes, Thomas Graven‐Nielsen, Raquel Lucas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Sensitized pain mechanisms are often reported in musculoskeletal pain conditions, but population-based paediatric studies are lacking. We assessed whether adolescents with musculoskeletal pain history had evidence of increased responsiveness to experimental pressure stimuli.

Data were from 1496 adolescents of the Generation XXI birth cohort. Pain history was collected using the Luebeck Pain Questionnaire (self-reported at 13, parent-reported at 7 and 10 years). Two case definitions for musculoskeletal pain were considered: (1) cross-sectional—musculoskeletal pain lasting more than 3 months at age 13 and (2) longitudinal—musculoskeletal pain at age 13 with musculoskeletal pain reports at ages 7 and/or 10. Lower limb cuff pressure algometry was used to assess pain detection and tolerance thresholds, conditioned pain modulation effects (CPM, changes in thresholds in the presence on painful conditioning) and temporal summation of pain effects (TSP, changes in pain intensity to 10 phasic painful cuff stimulations).

Adolescents with musculoskeletal pain at age 13 plus a history of pain in previous evaluations (longitudinal definition) had lower pain tolerance thresholds compared to the remaining sample (40.2 v. 49.0 kPa, p = 0.02), but showed no differences in pain detection threshold, CPM effect and TSP effect. Pain sensitivity, CPM effects and TSP effects were not significantly different when the current pain only case definition (cross-sectional) was used.

Adolescents with current musculoskeletal pain who had a history of pain since childhood had lower tolerance to cuff stimulation. This may suggest long-standing musculoskeletal pain since childhood may contribute to sensitisation, rather than the presence of current pain only.

Repeated musculoskeletal pain up to age 13 years may contribute to higher pain sensitivity (particularly lowered pressure pain tolerance) in the general adolescent population. This does not seem to be the case when reported pain experiences are recent or when the outcomes are temporal pain summation or CPM. In this community-based paediatric sample, the vast majority showed no sign of altered pain processing, but a small fraction may reveal some pain sensitization at 13 years of age.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)70-82
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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