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Topographical Pressure and Thermal Pain Sensitivity Mapping in Patients With Unilateral Lateral Epicondylalgia

      Abstract

      Our aim was to quantify spatial differences in pressure and thermal pain sensitivity maps between patients with unilateral lateral epicondylalgia (LE) and age- and sex-matched controls. Pressure (PPT), cold (CPT), and heat (HPT) pain thresholds were assessed over 12 points forming a 3 × 4 matrix (4 points in the superior part, 4 points in the middle, and 4 points in the lower part around the lateral epicondyle) bilaterally in 16 subjects with strictly unilateral LE and 16 age- and sex-matched controls in a blinded design. Topographical pain sensitivity maps to pressure and thermal stimulation over the elbow in patients with LE and healthy controls were calculated. A multilevel 3-way ANCOVA test was applied to detect differences in topographical maps between groups. Subjects with LE showed bilateral lower PPT, higher CPT (pain at higher temperature) and lower HPT (pain at lower temperature) at all the measurement points as compared to controls (all, P < .01). PPT were lower at points over the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle as compared to points over the extensor digitorum communis muscle (P < .01) and over the extensor carpi ulnaris muscle (P < .001). CPT and HPT were not significantly different between points (P > .05). Topographical pressure and thermal pain sensitivity maps revealed bilateral hyperalgesia in patients with strictly unilateral LE. LE patients exhibited heterogeneously distributed pressure pain hyperalgesia while cold or heat maps were homogenous. The most sensitive localizations for PPT assessment corresponded to the muscle belly of the ECRB. Our results confirm the role of ECRB muscle in LE and argue for evidence of peripheral and central sensitization mechanisms in patients with strictly unilateral symptoms.

      Perspective

      Topographical pressure and thermal sensitivity maps revealed bilateral hyperalgesia in patients with strictly unilateral lateral epicondylalgia (LE). LE patients exhibited heterogeneously distributed pressure pain hyperalgesia while cold or heat pain maps were homogenous. The most sensitive localizations for PPT assessment corresponded to the muscle belly of the ECRB.

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