This cross-sectional study investigates the plasma inflammatory profile of chronic widespread pain (CWP) patients compared to healthy controls (CON). Rather than analyzing a relatively few substances at a time, we used a new multiplex proximity extension assay (PEA) panel that enabled the simultaneous analysis of 92 inflammation-related proteins, mainly cytokines and chemokines.
Seventeen women with CWP and 21 female CON participated and a venous blood sample was drawn from all subjects. Pain intensity and pain thresholds for pressure, heat, and cold were registered. A PEA panel (92 proteins) was used to analyze the blood samples. Multivariate data analysis by projection was used in the statistical analyses.
Eleven proteins significantly differentiated the CON and CWP subjects (R2 = 0.58, Q2 = 0.37, analysis of variance of cross-validated predictive residuals P = 0.006). It was not possible to significantly regress pain thresholds within each group (CON or CWP). Positive significant correlations existed between several proteins and pain intensities in CWP, but the model reliability of the regression was poor.
CWP was associated with systemic low-grade inflammation. Larger studies are needed to confirm the results and to investigate which alterations are condition-specific and which are common across chronic pain conditions. The presence of inflammation could promote the spreading of pain, a hallmark sign of CWP. As it has been suggested that prevalent comorbidities to pain (e.g., depression and anxiety, poor sleep, and tiredness) also are associated with inflammation, it will be important to determine whether inflammation may be a common mediator.