Assessment of pain modulatory and somatosensory profiles in chronic tension-type headache patients

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OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to thoroughly phenotype a group of chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) patients.

METHODS: Fifteen CTTH patients diagnosed according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders-3 and 15 healthy controls were included in this study. Furthermore, 70 healthy controls were included to establish normative values. Quantitative sensory testing (QST), including temporal summation of pain (TSP), conditioned pain modulation (CPM), and psychological and sleep variables, was assessed in a single session. TSP and CPM were then combined to build pain modulation profiles (PMP) for each individual.

RESULTS: No difference was found between groups for PMP, TSP, and CPM. However, 10 CTTH patients showed a pronociceptive PMP, with 8 related to a deficient CPM and 2 to both a deficient CPM and increased TSP. Increased cold detection thresholds were the most common sensory disturbance found in CTTH patients. Significant differences were seen between groups for pain catastrophizing, depression, and sleep quality although not all patient's scores were above the clinically meaningful cutoffs.

CONCLUSIONS: In summary, CTTH patients presented with different PMP. These PMP may be related to increased TSP, deficient CPM, alterations in thermal detection that may be related to autonomic dysregulation, or a combination of all three. Overall, this suggests that due to their heterogeneous pathophysiology, CTTH patients should be managed according to their underlying pathophysiology and not with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPain Medicine
Pages (from-to)2356–2365
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

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