Under some conditions, vibration delivered to the skin can reduce pain (vibratory analgesia). Previous studies of this phenomenon in a clinical context have been somewhat variable in terms of stimulus control, and have not examined the way in which the spatial distribution of pain is affected. In the present study, we used rigorously controlled conditions to examine vibratory analgesia in participants (N=17) with painful temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Results of 20- and 100-Hz vibration were compared with data from a no-vibration control condition. The results document for the first time that vibratory analgesia occurs in TMD chronic pain conditions. We measured its time course using continuous visual analog scale (VAS) recording, and its spatial aspects by asking subjects to indicate painful regions on standardized drawings. VAS ratings and drawings both showed that pain is reduced by 100-Hz, but not by 20-Hz, vibration. The effectiveness of the high-frequency vibration cannot be attributed to a mechanism involving Pacinian corpuscles, since these receptors are lacking in the skin of the orofacial region. Spatial analyses revealed that ipsilateral and contralateral effects of vibration were statistically equivalent, suggesting that vibratory analgesia relies at least in part on central nervous system processes rather than local mechanisms.
aDepartment of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
bDental Research Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA
∗Corresponding author. Department of Oral and Craniofacial Biological Sciences, Dental School, University of Maryland at Baltimore, 666 W. Baltimore Street, Room 5-A-12, Baltimore, MD 21201-1586, USA. Tel.: +1-410-706-3250; fax: +1-410-706-4172
Submitted January 22, 2002; accepted September 4, 2002.