Background Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) is a phenomenon of 'pain inhibiting pain' that is important for understanding idiopathic pain syndromes. Because the pathophysiology of posttraumatic cold intolerance is still unknown but it could involve similar mechanisms as idiopathic pain syndromes, we evaluated the functioning of the CPM system in patients with posttraumatic cold intolerance compared to healthy controls. Methods Fourteen healthy controls and 24 patients diagnosed with cold intolerance using the Cold Intolerance Symptom Severity questionnaire were included in the study. Of the 24 patients with cold intolerance, 11 had a nerve lesion and 13 an amputation of one or more digits. To quantify the CPM, pain threshold for mechanical pressure was measured at the affected region as a baseline measure. Then, the contralateral hand received a cold stimulus of ice water to evoke the noxious conditioning. After the cold stimulus, the pain threshold for mechanical pressure was determined again. Results The absolute and relative changes in algometer pressure (CPM effect) between pre- and post-conditioning were significantly smaller in the cold intolerance group compared to the control group (absolute p = 0.019, relative p = 0.004). The CPM effect was significantly different between the control group and the subgroups of nerve lesion (p = 0.003) and amputation patients (p = 0.011). Conclusions In this study, we found a CPM effect after a cold stimulus in both controls and patients. A significant weaker CPM effect compared to the controls was found, as in other chronic pain conditions. The CPM system within patients with cold intolerance is altered.

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Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery
Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Smits, E.S, Selles, R.W, Huygen, F.J.P.M, Duraku, L.S, Hovius, S.E.R, & Walbeehm, E.T. (2014). Disordered conditioned pain modulation system in patients with posttraumatic cold intolerance. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery, 67(1), 68–73. doi:10.1016/j.bjps.2013.09.005