The nociceptive withdrawal reflex (NWR) is used to probe spinal cord excitability in chronic pain states. Here, we used an automated and unbiased procedure for determining the NWR threshold and compared the reflex thresholds and corresponding pain ratings in a well-characterized cohort of fibromyalgia ( = 29) and matched healthy controls ( = 21). Surface electrical stimuli were delivered to the foot in a stepwise incremental and decremental manner. The surface electromyographic activity was recorded from the ipsilateral tibialis anterior muscle. Fibromyalgia patients reported significantly higher scores for psychological distress and pain-related disability and a significantly lower score for perceived state of health compared to the matched controls. The subjective pain ratings were significantly higher in patients. The NWR thresholds were similar to the controls. In the patients, but not in controls, the NWR thresholds and subjective pain ratings were significantly correlated. Our results showed an increased subjective pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia, but we found no evidence for spinal sensitization based on the reflex measures.

References

PubMed