Persistent shoulder pain is a common complication after stroke. Its etiology and underlying mechanisms are not well understood and treatment is generally unsatisfactory. The objective of this study was to assess the role of central sensitization and disinhibition in chronic stroke patients with chronic PSSP (n = 19), pain-free stroke patients (n = 29), and healthy controls (n = 23). Positive and negative somatosensory symptoms and signs were assessed using clinical examination and electrical and mechanical quantitative sensory testing (QST). Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) was assessed by comparing QST thresholds before and after applying a cold pressor test. Sensory abnormalities were more frequently observed and more severe in patients with PSSP, including positive signs such as allodynia at the affected side and generalized hyperalgesia at the unaffected side. CPM was similar in stroke patients and healthy controls. This study showed that chronic PSSP was associated with several positive and negative somatosensory signs, implicating a role for central sensitization and possibly for disinhibition. Since the causal relationship remains unclear, and may be related to either neuroplasticity induced by ongoing nociception as well as to the neuropathic brain lesion, prospective studies are warranted.
- Quantitative sensory testing
- Shoulder pain
- conditioned pain modulation
- somatosensory function
- diffuse noxious inhibitory controls