Psychological Factors and Conditioned Pain Modulation: A Meta-Analysis

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Objective:Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) responses may be affected by psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, and pain catastrophizing; however, most studies on CPM do not address these relations as their primary outcome. The aim of this meta-analysis was to analyze the findings regarding the associations between CPM responses and psychological factors in both pain-free individuals and pain patients.Materials and Methods:After a comprehensive PubMed search, 37 articles were found to be suitable for inclusion. Analyses used DerSimonian and Laird’s random-effects model on Fisher’s z-transforms of correlations; potential publication bias was tested using funnel plots and Egger’s regression test for funnel plot asymmetry. Six meta-analyses were performed examining the correlations between anxiety, depression, and pain catastrophizing, and CPM responses in healthy individuals and pain patients.Results:No significant correlations between CPM responses and any of the examined psychological factors were found. However, a secondary analysis, comparing modality-specific CPM responses and psychological factors in healthy individuals, revealed the following: (1) pressure-based CPM responses were correlated with anxiety (grand mean correlation in original units r=−0.1087; 95% confidence limits, –0.1752 to −0.0411); (2) heat-based CPM was correlated with depression (r=0.2443; 95% confidence limits, 0.0150 to 0.4492); and (3) electrical-based CPM was correlated with pain catastrophizing levels (r=−0.1501; 95% confidence limits, −0.2403 to −0.0574).Discussion:Certain psychological factors seem to be associated with modality-specific CPM responses in healthy individuals. This potentially supports the notion that CPM paradigms evoked by different stimulation modalities represent different underlying mechanisms.

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