Reliability of conditioned pain modulation: a systematic review

Pain. 2016 Nov;157(11):2410-2419. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000000689.


A systematic literature review was undertaken to determine if conditioned pain modulation (CPM) is reliable. Longitudinal, English language observational studies of the repeatability of a CPM test paradigm in adult humans were included. Two independent reviewers assessed the risk of bias in 6 domains; study participation; study attrition; prognostic factor measurement; outcome measurement; confounding and analysis using the Quality in Prognosis Studies (QUIPS) critical assessment tool. Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) less than 0.4 were considered to be poor; 0.4 and 0.59 to be fair; 0.6 and 0.75 good and greater than 0.75 excellent. Ten studies were included in the final review. Meta-analysis was not appropriate because of differences between studies. The intersession reliability of the CPM effect was investigated in 8 studies and reported as good (ICC = 0.6-0.75) in 3 studies and excellent (ICC > 0.75) in subgroups in 2 of those 3. The assessment of risk of bias demonstrated that reporting is not comprehensive for the description of sample demographics, recruitment strategy, and study attrition. The absence of blinding, a lack of control for confounding factors, and lack of standardisation in statistical analysis are common. Conditioned pain modulation is a reliable measure; however, the degree of reliability is heavily dependent on stimulation parameters and study methodology and this warrants consideration for investigators. The validation of CPM as a robust prognostic factor in experimental and clinical pain studies may be facilitated by improvements in the reporting of CPM reliability studies.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Databases, Factual
  • Humans
  • Pain Management*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain*
  • Reproducibility of Results