Central Sensitization Is Modulated Following Trigger Point Anesthetization in Patients with Chronic Pain from Whiplash Trauma. A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study

N. Ake Nystrom*, Michael D. Freeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective. Central sensitization (CS) with low peripheral pain thresholds (PPTs) is a common finding among patients with chronic pain after whiplash (CPWI). While it has been proposed that myofascial myofascial trigger points (MTrPs) may act as modulators of central sensitization, previously reported findings are conflicting and inconclusive. The present study was designed to investigate immediate responsiveness of CS to alterations in nociceptive input. Design. Controlled, double-blind, cross-over. Subjects. Thirty-one patients with chronic pain (trapezius myalgia) and CS after whiplash. Methods. Participants were referred by randomization to group A for injection of a single peripheral pain generator (MTrP or other discrete tender point) with local anesthetic or to group B for sham injection and cross-over. Documentation of PPT (Algometer), maximum jaw opening (caliper), and grip strength (Vigorimeter), as well as subjective overall pain visual analog scale [VAS]), was made before and after each intervention. Results. Statistical analysis of data (Student's t test, analysis of variance) confirmed that peripheral pain thresholds were significantly higher and maximum jaw opening significantly greater after anesthetizing a focal pain generator in the trapezius, but not after a sham injection. In contrast with the objective variables, subjective generalized pain improved (VAS) after not only an injection of local anesthetic, but also, and to a similar extent, after a sham injection. Conclusions. CS, as expressed by lowered PPT, is a rapidly adjusting physiological response to nociceptive stimuli in some patients with chronic pain after whiplash. PPT are likely modulated by myofascial tender points in selected patients with CS. With reference to the present findings, surgical ablation of MTrPs is discussed as a potential treatment modality for CS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-129
Number of pages6
JournalPain Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Central Sensitization
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Pain
  • Whiplash

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