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Front Pain Res (Lausanne)


Modulation of Muscle Pain Is Not Somatotopically Restricted: An Experimental Model Using Concurrent Hypertonic-Normal Saline Infusions in Humans.


We have previously shown that during muscle pain induced by infusion of hypertonic saline (HS), concurrent application of vibration and gentle brushing to overlying and adjacent skin regions increases the overall pain. In the current study, we focused on muscle-muscle interactions and tested whether HS-induced muscle pain can be modulated by innocuous/sub-perceptual stimulation of adjacent, contralateral, and remote muscles. Psychophysical observations were made in 23 healthy participants. HS (5%) was infused into a forearm muscle (flexor carpi ulnaris) to produce a stable baseline pain. In separate experiments, in each of the three test locations ( = 10 per site)-ipsilateral hand (abductor digiti minimi), contralateral forearm (flexor carpi ulnaris), and contralateral leg (tibialis anterior)-50 μl of 0.9% normal saline (NS) was infused (in triplicate) before, during, and upon cessation of HS-induced muscle pain in the forearm. In the absence of background pain, the infusion of NS was imperceptible to all participants. In the presence of HS-induced pain in the forearm, the concurrent infusion of NS into the ipsilateral hand, contralateral forearm, and contralateral leg increased the overall pain by 16, 12, and 15%, respectively. These effects were significant, reproducible, and time-locked to NS infusions. Further, the NS-evoked increase in pain was almost always ascribed to the forearm where HS was infused with no discernible percept attributed to the sites of NS infusion. Based on these observations, we conclude that intramuscular infusion of HS results in muscle hyperalgesia to sub-perceptual stimulation of muscle afferents in a somatotopically unrestricted manner, indicating the involvement of a central (likely supra-spinal) mechanism.