No effect of social interaction on experimental pain sensitivity: a randomized experimental study : PAIN

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No effect of social interaction on experimental pain sensitivity: a randomized experimental study

Nim, Casper Glissmanna,b,c,*; Ravn, Sophie Lykkegaardd,e; Andersen, Tonny E.d; Engelsholm, Emmac; Hestbech, Fiec; Hvidkær, Inge S.c; Traidl, Amanda N.c; O'Neill, Sørena,b

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PAIN 164(9):p 2112-2121, September 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002913

Quantitative sensory testing (QST) is a commonly applied paradigm to investigate pain, which is a subjective experience influenced by a myriad of social and contextual factors. Therefore, it is important to consider the potential sensitivity of QST to the test setting and the social interaction that naturally is a part of it. This may particularly be the case in clinical settings where patients have something at stake. Therefore, we investigated differences in pain responses using QST in different test setups with varying degrees of human interaction. In a parallel three-armed randomized experimental study, we included 92 participants with low back pain and 87 healthy volunteers allocated to 1 of the 3 QST setups: 1 setup with manual tests performed by a human tester, 1 setup with automated tests performed by a robot and orally guided by a human tester, and 1 setup with automated tests performed solely by a robot without social interaction with a human tester. All 3 setups consisted of the same pain tests in the same order, including pressure pain threshold and cold pressor tests. We found no statistically significant differences between setups on the primary outcome of conditioned pain modulation nor any secondary QST outcomes. While this study is not without limitations, the results indicate that QST procedures are robust enough not to be influenced by social interaction to an appreciable degree.

© 2023 International Association for the Study of Pain

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