Segmental and plurisegmental modulation of pressure pain thresholds during static muscle contractions in healthy individuals

Eur J Pain. 2003;7(3):251-8. doi: 10.1016/S1090-3801(02)00124-6.


The purpose of this study was to assess possible segmental (uni- and/or bilateral) and plurisegmental changes in pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) during static muscle contractions. Twenty-four healthy subjects (12 female, 12 male) performed a standardised isometric contraction with the dominant m. quadriceps femoris (MQF) and m. infraspinatus (MI), respectively. PPTs were assessed using pressure algometry at the contracting muscle, at the contralateral (resting) muscle and at a distant resting muscle (MI during contraction of MQF and vice versa). The PPT assessments were performed before, during and 30min. following each contraction. The contractions were held until exhaustion or for a maximum of 10 PPT assessments/muscle. During contraction of MQF PPTs increased compared to baseline at the middle ( p<0.001) and the end (p<0.001) of the contraction period at all assessed sites alike. During contraction of MI PPTs increased compared to baseline at the middle (p<0.001) and the end (p<0.007) of the contraction period at all sites. The increase was more pronounced at the contracting muscle compared to the contralateral (p<0.002; p<0.01) and the distant (p<0.002; p<0.002) site. No statistically significant difference was seen in PPTs between the latter two. Following the contractions PPTs returned to baseline. Submaximal isometric contraction of MQF and MI gave rise to a statistically significant increase in PPTs at the contracting muscle, the resting homologous contralateral muscle and at the distant resting muscle indicating that generalised pain inhibitory mechanisms were activated. Contraction of MI, but not of MQF, gave rise to an additional activation of unilateral segmental antinociceptive effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology*
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Threshold* / physiology
  • Pressure
  • Reference Values