Does catastrophic thinking enhance oesophageal pain sensitivity? An experimental investigation

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Abstract

Background:

Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a major health problem that is frequently accompanied by debilitating oesophageal pain symptoms.

Objectives:

The first objective of the study was to examine the association between catastrophizing and oesophageal pain sensitivity. The second objective was to examine whether catastrophizing was associated with the magnitude of acid-induced oesophageal sensitization.

Methods:

Twenty-five healthy volunteers (median age: 24.0 years; range: 22–31) were recruited and were asked to complete the Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS). During two subsequent study visits, mechanical, thermal, and electrical pain sensitivity in the oesophagus was assessed before and after inducing oesophageal sensitization using a 30-min intraluminal oesophageal acid perfusion procedure.

Results:

Analyses were conducted based on data averaged across the two study visits. At baseline, catastrophizing was significantly associated with mechanical (r = −0.42, p < 0.05) and electrical (r = −0.60, p < 0.01) pain thresholds. After acid perfusion, catastrophizing was also significantly associated with mechanical (r = −0.58, p < 0.01) and electrical (r = −0.50, p < 0.05) pain thresholds. Catastrophizing was not significantly associated with thermal pain thresholds. Subsequent analyses revealed that catastrophizing was not significantly associated with the magnitude of acid-induced oesophageal sensitization.

Conclusion:

Taken together, findings from the present study suggest that catastrophic thinking exerts an influence on oesophageal pain sensitivity, but not necessarily on the magnitude of acid-induced oesophageal sensitization.

What does this study add?:

Catastrophizing is associated with heightened pain sensitivity in the oesophagus. This was substantiated by assessing responses to noxious stimulation of the oesophagus using an experimental paradigm mimicking features and symptoms experienced by patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).

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