Methods for investigating human pain have been developed over the last 100 years. Typically, researchers focus on people with clinical pain, or on healthy participants undergoing laboratory-controlled pain-induction techniques focussed mostly on exogenously generated skin nociception. Less commonly investigated are acute pain experiences that emerge naturally. Six common painful complaints were identified: headache, muscular pain, visceral pain, menstrual pain, dental pain, and pain associated with upper respiratory tract infection. Methods used to recruit participants with the natural occurrence of each pain complaint were identified, and features of their use reviewed. Also reviewed were experimental analogues designed to mimic these pains, with the exception of menstrual pain. Headache and menstrual pain appear to be most effectively researched in their naturally occurring form, whereas muscle and dental pain may be more easily induced. Upper respiratory tract infection and abdominal pain provide further challenges for researchers. Summary guidance is offered, and directions for methods development outlined.
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aCentre for Pain Research, The University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK
bDepartment of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
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Submitted March 2, 2012; revised May 24, 2012; accepted July 9, 2012.