Minimizing the source of nociception and its concurrent effect on sensory hypersensitivity: An exploratory study in chronic whiplash patients
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BACKGROUND: The cervical zygapophyseal joints may be a primary source of pain in up to 60% of individuals with chronic whiplash associated disorders (WAD) and may be a contributing factor for peripheral and centrally mediated pain (sensory hypersensitivity). Sensory hypersensitivity has been associated with a poor prognosis. The purpose of the study was to determine if there is a change in measures indicative of sensory hypersensitivity in patients with chronic WAD grade II following a medial branch block (MBB) procedure in the cervical spine. METHODS: Measures of sensory hypersensitivity were taken via quantitative sensory testing (QST) consisting of pressure pain thresholds (PPT's) and cold pain thresholds (CPT's). In patients with chronic WAD (n = 18), the measures were taken at three sites bilaterally, pre- and post- MBB. Reduced pain thresholds at remote sites have been considered an indicator of central hypersensitivity. A healthy age and gender matched comparison group (n = 18) was measured at baseline. An independent t-test was applied to determine if there were any significant differences between the WAD and normative comparison groups at baseline with respect to cold pain and pressure pain thresholds. A dependent t-test was used to determine whether there were any significant differences between the pre and post intervention cold pain and pressure pain thresholds in the patients with chronic WAD. RESULTS: At baseline, PPT's were decreased at all three sites in the WAD group (p < 0.001). Cold pain thresholds were increased in the cervical spine in the WAD group (p < 0.001). Post-MBB, the WAD group showed significant increases in PPT's at all sites (p < 0.05), and significant decreases in CPT's at the cervical spine (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: The patients with chronic WAD showed evidence of widespread sensory hypersensitivity to mechanical and thermal stimuli. The WAD group revealed decreased sensory hypersensitivity following a decrease in their primary source of pain stemming from the cervical zygapophyseal joints.
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