Is tactile acuity altered in people with chronic pain? a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Pain. 2014 Oct;15(10):985-1000. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2014.06.009. Epub 2014 Jun 28.


Impaired tactile acuity in people with chronic pain conditions has been suggested to reflect altered cortical representation of the painful body part, and treatments that aim to improve tactile acuity in these conditions have shown clinical benefit. Whether abnormalities in tactile acuity are a consistent feature of chronic pain remains largely unknown. The aim of this review was to systematically evaluate the literature and use meta-analysis to establish whether tactile acuity is altered in people with chronic non-neuropathic pain. We systematically searched the literature for studies that investigated tactile acuity in people with chronic non-neuropathic pain and compared it to an appropriate control group. Sixteen studies, reporting data from 5 chronic pain conditions, were included. Data were available for 18 chronic pain populations (n = 484) and 15 control populations (n = 378). Our results suggest that tactile acuity is diminished in arthritis, complex regional pain syndrome, and chronic low back pain but not in burning mouth syndrome. The strength of the available evidence is weakened by somewhat inconsistent results and the high risk of bias observed in all of the included studies.

Perspective: This systematic review synthesizes the evidence for tactile acuity deficits in people with chronic non-neuropathic pain. The findings suggest that tactile acuity deficits may be characteristic of chronic pain. That tactile acuity training may benefit those with chronic pain disorders suggests that clinical trials may be warranted.

Keywords: 2-point discrimination; Tactile acuity; chronic pain; reorganization; sensory training.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Touch Perception / physiology*