Chronic pain has multiple aetiological factors and complexity. Pain theory helps us to guide and organize our thinking to deal with this complexity. The objective of this paper is to critically review the most influential theory in pain science history (the gate control theory of pain) and focus on its implications in chronic pain rehabilitation to minimize disability.
In this narrative review, all the published studies that focused upon pain theory were retrieved from Ovoid Medline (from 1946 till present), EMBAS, AMED and PsycINFO data bases.
Chronic pain is considered a disease or dysfunction of the nervous system. In chronic pain conditions, hypersensitivity is thought to develop from changes to the physiological top-down control (inhibitory) mechanism of pain modulation according to the pain theory. Pain hypersensitivity manifestation is considered as abnormal central inhibitory control at the gate controlling mechanism. On the other hand, pain hypersensitivity is a prognostic factor in pain rehabilitation. It is clinically important to detect and manage hypersensitivity responses and their mechanisms.
Since somatosensory perception and integration are recognized as a contributor to the pain perception under the theory, then we can use the model to direct interventions aimed at pain relief. The pain theory should be leveraged to develop and refine measurement tools with clinical utility for detecting and monitoring hypersensitivity linked to chronic pain mechanisms.