Dysregulation of the immune system may play a role in chronic pain, although study findings are inconsistent. This cross-sectional study examined whether basal inflammatory markers and the innate immune response are associated with the presence and severity of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain. Data were used on 1632 subjects of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety. The Chronic Pain Grade questionnaire was used to determine the presence and severity of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain. Subjects were categorized in a chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain group (n=754) and a control group (n=878). Blood levels of the basal inflammatory markers C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha were determined. To obtain a measure of the innate immune response, 13 inflammatory markers were assessed after lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation in a subsample (n=707). Subjects with chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain showed elevated levels of basal inflammatory markers compared with controls, but statistical significance was lost after adjustment for lifestyle and disease variables. For some LPS-stimulated inflammatory markers, we did find elevated levels in subjects with chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain both before and after adjustment for covariates. Pain severity was not associated with inflammation within chronic pain subjects. An enhanced innate immune response in chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain may be examined as a potential biomarker for the onset or perpetuation of chronic pain.
Keywords: C-reactive protein; Central sensitization; Chronic pain; Cytokines; Immune system; Innate immune response; Lipopolysaccharide.
Copyright © 2014 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.