The Role of Attentional Strategies in Moderating Links Between Acute Pain Induction and Subsequent Psychological Stress: Evidence for Symptom-Specific Reactivity Among Patients With Chronic Pain Versus Healthy Nonpatients

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Vulnerability to stressors after pain may depend on the degree to which the strategy used to process information about pain perpetuates thoughts of suffering and distress. Patients with chronic low back pain (CLBP) may show susceptibility to stress after pain through symptom-specific (lower paraspinal [LP]) muscle reactivity. Patients with CLBP (n = 100) and healthy nonpatients (n = 105) underwent a cold pressor, under sensory focus, distraction, suppression, or control conditions, and then performed mental arithmetic. Only patients under the suppression condition revealed increased LP tension during pain that was sustained during mental arithmetic and sustained systolic blood pressure after mental arithmetic. Patients with CLBP who suppress pain may detrimentally affect responses to the next noxious event, particularly through prolonged LP muscle tension, that may contribute to a cycle of pain-stress-pain.

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