Current Issue - September/October - Vol 20 Issue 6


  1. 2017;20;487-500What Are the Predictors of Altered Central Pain Modulation in Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Populations? A Systematic Review
    Systematic Review
    Jacqui Clark, MSc, Jo Nijs, PhD, Gillian Yeowell, PhD, and Peter Charles Goodwin, PhD.

BACKGROUND: Altered central pain modulation is the predominant pain mechanism in a proportion of chronic musculoskeletal pain disorders and is associated with poor outcomes. Although existing studies predict poor outcomes such as persistent pain and disability, to date there is little consensus on what factors specifically predict altered central pain modulation.

OBJECTIVES: To review the existing literature on the predictive factors specifically for altered central pain modulation in musculoskeletal pain populations.

STUDY DESIGN: This is a systematic review in accordance with supplemented PRISMA guidelines.

METHODS: A systematic search was performed by 2 mutually blinded reviewers. Relevant articles were screened by title and abstract from Medline, Embase, PubMed, CINAHL, and Web of Science electronic databases. Alternative sources were also sought to locate missed potential articles. Eligibility included studies published in English, adults aged 18 to 65, musculoskeletal pain, baseline measurements taken at the pre-morbid or acute stage, > 3-month follow-up time after pain onset, and primary outcome measures specific to altered central pain modulation. Studies were excluded where there were concurrent diseases or they were non-predictive studies. Risk of bias was assessed using the quality in prognostic studies (QUIPS) tool. Study design, demographics, musculoskeletal region, inclusion/exclusion criteria, measurement timelines, predictor and primary outcome measures, and results were extracted. Data were synthesized qualitatively and strength of evidence was scored using the grading of recommendations, assessment, development, and evaluations (GRADE) scoring system.

RESULTS: Nine eligible articles were located, in various musculoskeletal populations (whiplash, n = 2; widespread pain, n = 5; temporomandibular disorder, n = 2). Moderate evidence was found for 2 predictive factors of altered central pain modulation: 1) high sensory sensitivity (using genetic testing or quantitative sensory tests), and 2) psychological factors (somatization and poor self-expectation of recovery), at a pre-morbid or acute stage baseline.

LIMITATIONS: At the times of the article publications, the current definitions and clinical guidelines for identifying altered central pain modulation were not yet available. Careful interpretation of the information provided using current knowledge and published guidelines was necessary to extract information specific to altered central pain modulation in some of the studies, avoiding unwarranted assumptions.

CONCLUSIONS: Premorbid and acute stage high sensory sensitivity and/or somatization are the strongest predictors of altered central pain modulation in chronic musculoskeletal pain to date. This is the first systematic review specifically targeting altered central pain modulation as the primary outcome in musculoskeletal pain populations. Early identification of people at risk of developing chronic pain with altered central pain modulation may guide clinicians in appropriate management, diminishing the burden of persistent pain on patients and heath care providers alike.

Systematic Review Registration no.: PROSPERO 2015:CRD42015032394.

Key words: Predictive factors, pre-morbid and acute stage baselines, altered central pain modulation, chronic musculoskeletal pain, sensory processing, somatization