Somatosensory Test Responses and Physical and Psychological Functioning of Children and Adolescents with Chronic Non-neuropathic Pain: An Exploratory Study

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Abstract

Objectives:

This study was designed to establish preliminary feasibility testing of a set of inherently benign somatosensory stimulus-response tests (to cutaneous and deep stimuli) for bedside or office evaluation of pain disorders in children and adolescents. Associations between, and the relative influence of, cutaneous somatosensory testing (SST) responses, deep SST responses, and psychological factors (depression, pain-related catastrophizing) on pain outcomes (worst pain intensity, pain-related disability) were considered.

Methods:

Sixty participants (6 to 18 y) were recruited from the pediatric chronic pain clinic. SST responses were assessed at the pain site (PS) and control sites to diverse stimuli (static/dynamic touch, punctate pressure, vibration, cool, deep pressure) using Colored Analogue Scales (CAS) with modified anchors. Validated measures of depression, pain-related catastrophizing, and pain-related functional interference were administered.

Results:

Responses at the PS were more frequently hypersensitive than hyposensitive for all SST measures except vibration. Deep pressure responses were the only statistically significant predictor of worst pain intensity. Depression and pain-related catastrophizing accounted for a statistically significant amount of variance of pain-related disability, over and above that which was accounted for by SST responses.

Discussion:

Preliminary feasibility of a set of somatosensory stimulus-response tests for bedside or office evaluation of pain disorders in children and adolescents was established. Deep pressure responses contributed unique information in predicting worst pain intensity but not functional interference. Although cutaneous SST responses at the PSs were frequently abnormal, cutaneous SST responses were not confirmed in this study to have clinical utility, but rather might be centrally mediated epiphenomena.

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