Sensitivity of quantitative sensory models to morphine analgesia in humans

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INTRODUCTION: Opioid analgesia can be explored with quantitative sensory testing, but most investigations have used models of phasic pain, and such brief stimuli may be limited in the ability to faithfully simulate natural and clinical painful experiences. Therefore, identification of appropriate experimental pain models is critical for our understanding of opioid effects with the potential to improve treatment.

OBJECTIVES: The aim was to explore and compare various pain models to morphine analgesia in healthy volunteers.

METHODS: The study was a double-blind, randomized, two-way crossover study. Thirty-nine healthy participants were included and received morphine 30 mg (2 mg/mL) as oral solution or placebo. To cover both tonic and phasic stimulations, a comprehensive multi-modal, multi-tissue pain-testing program was performed.

RESULTS: Tonic experimental pain models were sensitive to morphine analgesia compared to placebo: muscle pressure (F=4.87, P=0.03), bone pressure (F=3.98, P=0.05), rectal pressure (F=4.25, P=0.04), and the cold pressor test (F=25.3, P<0.001). Compared to placebo, morphine increased tolerance to muscle stimulation by 14.07%; bone stimulation by 9.72%; rectal mechanical stimulation by 20.40%, and reduced pain reported during the cold pressor test by 9.14%. In contrast, the more phasic experimental pain models were not sensitive to morphine analgesia: skin heat, rectal electrical stimulation, or rectal heat stimulation (all P>0.05).

CONCLUSION: Pain models with deep tonic stimulation including C fiber activation and and/or endogenous pain modulation were more sensitive to morphine analgesia. To avoid false negative results in future studies, we recommend inclusion of reproducible tonic pain models in deep tissues, mimicking clinical pain to a higher degree.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pain Research
Pages (from-to)717-726
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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