Experimental tissue acidosis leads to increased pain in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)

Pain. 2000 Aug;87(2):227-234. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(00)00286-4.


The aim of this study was to investigate the role of local acidosis in the generation of pain in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). We investigated ten patients with CRPS of the upper extremity with a mean duration of the disease of 43 weeks (range 4-280 weeks) and ten control subjects for sensitivity to infusion of fluids with low pH (pH 6.1). Another group of five CRPS patients and three healthy controls was investigated using the same protocol but neutral infusion fluid (pH 7.4). A motorized syringe pump was installed for a constant infusion of synthetic interstitial fluid (SIF, either acidified (pH 6.1) or neutral) into the skin at the back of the hands and, thereafter, into the interosseus I muscle on both sides. A flow rate of 30 ml/h was chosen for intradermal and 7.5 ml/h for intramuscular infusion over a period of 10 min. The magnitude of pain was rated on an electronic visual analogue scale. Patients were requested to give their ratings every 10 s during the whole stimulation period. The ratings were normalized as fractions of individual grand mean values. We found significantly increased pain perception during infusion of acidified SIF on the affected side in CRPS patients. Low pH fluid into the skin was significantly more painful between 4 and 6 min (ipsi 1.27 normalized rating (NR) (0. 19-1.94), contra 0.31 NR (0.03-0.51), P<0.02) and between 8 and 10 min (ipsi 1.38 NR (0.19-1.94), contra 0.08 NR (0-0.27), P<0.03) on the affected side, while analysis over the whole stimulation period just failed to reach statistical significance (ipsi 281 area under the curve (AUC) (187-834), contra 87 AUC (28-293), P=0.059). Low pH infusion into the muscle was significantly more painful on the affected side during the whole infusion time (ipsi 861 AUC (308-1377), contra 190 AUC (96-528), P<0.01). The quality of the deep pain during infusion into the muscle was described by the patients as very similar to the CRPS-related pain. In controls we found no side differences of pain intensity during low pH stimulation. Neutral SIF evoked no pain at all, neither in CRPS patients (ipsi 0 AUC, contra 0 AUC) nor in healthy controls. Our results suggest that hyperalgesia to protons is present in patients with CRPS. Further, we could demonstrate that pain is not only restricted to the skin but is also generated in deep somatic tissue of the affected limb.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis / chemically induced
  • Acidosis / physiopathology*
  • Acidosis / psychology
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / psychology
  • Extracellular Space
  • Female
  • Forearm / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / physiology
  • Pain Measurement* / psychology
  • Pain Threshold / physiology*
  • Pain Threshold / psychology
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Statistics, Nonparametric