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A Disturbance in Sensory Processing on the Affected Side of the Body Increases Limb Pain in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Drummond, Peter D. PhD; Finch, Philip M. FFARCS

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31829ca4fc
Original Articles

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine whether a central disturbance in somatosensory processing contributes to limb pain in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

Methods: In 37 patients with CRPS, the effect of cooling the ipsilateral forehead on pain in the affected limb was compared with the effect of cooling the contralateral forehead. In addition, symptoms associated with cold-evoked limb pain were explored.

Results: Limb pain generally increased when the ipsilateral side of the forehead was cooled but did not change when the contralateral side of the forehead was cooled. Increases were greatest in patients with heightened sensitivity to cold, brushing, and pressure-pain in the ipsilateral forehead, in patients with heightened sensitivity to pressure-pain in the limbs, and in patients with chronic symptoms. In contrast, sensitivity to light touch was diminished in the CRPS-affected limb of patients whose limb pain remained unchanged or decreased during ipsilateral forehead cooling.

Conclusions: These preliminary findings suggest that a central disturbance in sensory processing and pain modulation, which extends beyond the affected limb to the ipsilateral forehead, contributes to symptoms in a subgroup of patients with CRPS.

Centre for Research on Chronic Pain and Inflammatory Diseases, Murdoch University, Perth, WA

The authors declare no conflict of interest. Supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) grant #APP1030379.

Reprints: Peter D. Drummond, PhD, School of Psychology and Exercise Science, Murdoch University, Perth 6150, WA (e-mail:

Received December 8, 2012

Accepted May 13, 2013

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins