Original Report| Volume 13, ISSUE 2, P187-194, February 2012

Muscle Pain Differentially Modulates Short Interval Intracortical Inhibition and Intracortical Facilitation in Primary Motor Cortex

  • Siobhan M. Schabrun
    Address reprint requests to Dr SiobhanM. Schabrun, School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.
    The University of Queensland, NHMRC Centre of Clinical Research Excellence in Spinal Pain, Injury and Health, School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, St Lucia, Australia
    Search for articles by this author
  • Paul W. Hodges
    The University of Queensland, NHMRC Centre of Clinical Research Excellence in Spinal Pain, Injury and Health, School of Health and Rehabilitation Science, St Lucia, Australia
    Search for articles by this author
Published:January 09, 2012DOI:


      Excitability of the motor cortex can be suppressed during muscle pain. Yet the mechanisms are largely unknown. Short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) and intracortical facilitation (ICF) were examined as possible candidate mechanisms to underpin this change. SICI and ICF were investigated in 11 healthy individuals before, during and after infusion of hypertonic saline into right first dorsal interosseous (FDI). Using paired-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), interstimulus intervals of 2, 3, and 13 ms were investigated. Pain intensity and quality were recorded using a 10-cm visual analogue scale and the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Resting motor threshold and motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) to single TMS stimuli were recorded before and after pain. Electromyographic recordings were made from right FDI and abductor digiti minimi. Participants reported an average pain intensity of 5.8 (1.6) cm. MEP amplitudes decreased in both muscles. Compared with the pre-pain condition, SICI was increased following pain, but not during. ICF was decreased both during and after pain when compared with the pre-pain condition. These findings suggest that muscle pain differentially modulates SICI and ICF. Although the functional relevance is unknown, we hypothesize decreased facilitation and increased inhibition may contribute to the restriction of movement of a painful body part.


      This article provides evidence for decreased intracortical facilitation and increased short interval intracortical inhibition in response to muscle pain. This finding is relevant to clinicians as a mechanism which may underlie restricted movement in acute and chronic pain.

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