Somatosensory Profiles Differentiate Pain and Psychophysiological Symptoms Among Young Adults With Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Cluster Analysis

Clin J Pain. 2022 Jul 1;38(7):492-501. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000001046.


Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate if somatosensory profiles can differentiate pain and psychophysiological symptoms among young adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Methods: We performed a cluster analysis of data collected from a randomized clinical trial of 80 IBS patients and 21 age-matched healthy controls (HCs) to stratify pain and symptoms among young adults with IBS by their peripheral sensory profiles. Data of quantitative sensory testing and IBS-related pain and symptoms were collected at baseline and 6-week and 12-week follow-ups.

Results: Using the K-means method, IBS patients were classified into 2 clusters, the "IBS normal threshold" (IBS-NT) and the "IBS increased threshold" (IBS-IT). The IBS-NT cluster had a similar pain threshold as the HCs, and the IBS-IT cluster had an increased threshold of somatic pain perception (lower cold pain threshold, higher heat pain threshold, and higher pressure pain threshold, all P<0.001) than HCs. Compared with the IBS-NT cluster, the IBS-IT cluster reported higher levels of IBS-related pain intensity, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep disturbance over the 3 visits (all P<0.05).

Discussion: Young adults with IBS fell into 2 clusters, one with a similar sensory threshold as the HCs and another with an increased pain threshold, who reported higher pain intensity and more severe symptoms. Somatic sensory profiles should be integrated into further personalized self-management intervention among patients with IBS.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / complications
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Nociceptive Pain*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Young Adult