Expanded distribution of pain as a sign of central sensitization in individuals with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis

E Lluch Girbes, Lirios Duenas, Marco Barbero, Deborah Falla, IA Baert , M Meeus, J Sánchez-Frutos , L Aguilella , J Nijs

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Background Expanded distribution of pain is considered a sign of central sensitization (CS). The relationship between recording of symptoms and CS in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA) has been poorly investigated. Objective The aim of this study was to examine whether the area of pain assessed using pain drawings relates to CS and clinical symptoms in people with knee OA. Design This was a cross-sectional study. Methods Fifty-three people with knee OA scheduled to undergo primary total knee arthroplasty were studied. All participants completed pain drawings using a novel digital device, completed self-administration questionnaires, and were assessed by quantitative sensory testing. Pain frequency maps were generated separately for women and men. Spearman correlation coefficients were computed to reveal possible correlations between the area of pain and quantitative sensory testing and clinical symptoms. Results Pain frequency maps revealed enlarged areas of pain, especially in women. Enlarged areas of pain were associated with higher knee pain severity (rs=.325, P<.05) and stiffness (rs=.341, P<.05), lower pressure pain thresholds at the knee (rs=−.306, P<.05) and epicondyle (rs=−.308, P<.05), and higher scores with the Central Sensitization Inventory (rs=.456, P<.01). No significant associations were observed between the area of pain and the remaining clinical symptoms and measures of CS. Limitations Firm conclusions about the predictive role of pain drawings cannot be drawn. Further evaluation of the reliability and validity of pain area extracted from pain drawings in people with knee OA is needed. Conclusion Expanded distribution of pain was correlated with some measures of CS in individuals with knee OA. Pain drawings may constitute an easy way for the early identification of CS in people with knee OA, but further research is needed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number8
Early online date3 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2016


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