Association of Pain Sensitization and Conditioned Pain Modulation to Pain Patterns in Knee Osteoarthritis

Academic Article


  • Objective: To examine the cross-sectional association of ascending pain mechanisms, implicated in pain sensitization, and descending pain modulation with pain patterns and unpredictability of pain. Methods: The Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study is a longitudinal cohort of older adults with or at risk of knee osteoarthritis. Peripheral and central ascending pain mechanisms were assessed using quantitative sensory tests, pressure pain thresholds using a handheld pressure algometer (knee/peripheral and wrist/central), and temporal summation using weighted probes (wrist/central). Descending modulation was assessed by conditioned pain modulation using pressure pain thresholds and a forearm ischemia test. Pain patterns were characterized based on responses to the Intermittent and Constant Osteoarthritis Pain questionnaire: 1) no intermittent or constant pain, 2) intermittent pain only, 3) constant pain only, and 4) combined constant and intermittent pain. A question regarding frequency assessed unpredictable pain. We assessed the association of quantitative sensory test measures to pain patterns using regression models with generalized estimating equations. Results: There were 2,794 participants (mean age 63.9 years, body mass index 29.5 kg/m2, and 57% female). Lower pain sensitization by wrist pressure pain threshold (odds ratio [OR] 0.80 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.68, 0.93]) and adequate conditioned pain modulation (OR 1.45 [95% CI 1.10, 1.92]) were associated with having constant ± intermittent pain compared with intermittent pain only. Higher pain sensitization (by pressure pain thresholds and temporal summation) was associated with a higher likelihood of unpredictable pain. Conclusion: Knee pain patterns appear to be related to peripheral ± central facilitated ascending pain mechanisms and descending modulatory mechanisms. These findings highlight the need for a broader approach to understanding pain mechanisms by symptomatic disease progression.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Carlesso LC; Law LF; Wang N; Nevitt M; Lewis CE; Neogi T
  • Start Page

  • 107
  • End Page

  • 112
  • Volume

  • 74
  • Issue

  • 1