Temporal summation of mechanical pain prospectively predicts movement-evoked pain severity in adults with chronic low back pain

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2021 May 10;22(1):429. doi: 10.1186/s12891-021-04306-5.


Background: Biopsychosocial factors above and beyond pathoanatomical changes likely contribute to the severity of chronic low back pain. A pro-nociceptive endogenous pain modulatory balance (↓inhibition and ↑facilitation) may be an important contributor to chronic low back pain severity and physical function; however, additional research is needed to address this possibility. The objective of this study was to determine whether quantitative sensory tests of endogenous pain inhibition and facilitation prospectively predict movement-evoked pain and cLBP severity self-reported on a validated questionnaire.

Methods: One hundred thirty-four individuals with chronic low back pain were enrolled in this two-session study. During the first study session, temporal summation of mechanical pain and conditioned pain modulation were assessed at the lumbar spine to determine endogenous pain facilitation and inhibition, respectively. One week later, participants returned for a second study session whereby they reported their pain severity and pain interference using the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form. Movement-evoked pain and physical function capacity were assessed upon completion of the balance, walking, and transition from sit to stand tests of the Short Physical Performance Battery.

Results: Temporal summation of mechanical pain, but not conditioned pain modulation, significantly and prospectively predicted greater movement-evoked pain and poorer physical function on the Short Physical Performance Battery. Neither temporal summation nor conditioned pain modulation were significantly related to self-reported pain severity or pain interference on the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that a pro-nociceptive pain modulatory balance characterized by enhanced pain facilitation may be an important driver of movement-evoked pain severity and poor physical function in individuals with chronic low back pain.

Keywords: Conditioned pain modulation; Low back pain; Movement; Temporal summation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Pain* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain* / diagnosis
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Movement
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Surveys and Questionnaires