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Quantitative sensory testing and predicting outcomes for musculoskeletal pain, disability, and negative affect: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Georgopoulos, Vasileios; Akin-Akinyosoye, Kehinde; Zhang, Weiya; McWilliams, Daniel F.; Hendrick, Paul; Walsh, David A.


Kehinde Akin-Akinyosoye

Paul Hendrick

Professor of Rheumatology


Hypersensitivity due to central pain mechanisms can influence recovery and lead to worse clinical outcomes, but the ability of quantitative sensory testing (QST), an index of sensitisation, to predict outcomes in chronic musculoskeletal disorders remains unclear. We systematically reviewed the evidence for ability of QST to predict pain, disability and negative affect using searches of CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, AMED, CINAHL and PubMed databases up to April 2018. Title screening, data extraction, and methodological quality assessments were performed independently by 2 reviewers. Associations were reported between baseline QST and outcomes using adjusted (?) and unadjusted (r) correlations. Of the 37 eligible studies (n=3860 participants), 32 were prospective cohort studies and 5 randomised controlled trials. Pain was an outcome in 30 studies, disability in 11 and negative affect in 3. Metaanalysis revealed that baseline QST predicted musculoskeletal pain (mean r=0.31, 95%CI: 0.23 to 0.38, n=1057 participants) and disability (mean r=0.30, 95%CI: 0.19 to 0.40, n=290 participants). Baseline modalities quantifying central mechanisms such as temporal summation (TS) and conditioned pain modulation (CPM) were associated with follow-up pain (TS: mean r=0.37, 95%CI: 0.17 to 0.54; CPM: r=0.36, 95%CI: 0.20 to 0.50), whereas baseline mechanical threshold modalities were predictive of followup disability (mean r=0.25, 95%CI: 0.03 to 0.45). QST indices of pain hypersensitivity might help develop targeted interventions aiming to improve outcomes across a range of musculoskeletal conditions.


Georgopoulos, V., Akin-Akinyosoye, K., Zhang, W., McWilliams, D. F., Hendrick, P., & Walsh, D. A. (2019). Quantitative sensory testing and predicting outcomes for musculoskeletal pain, disability, and negative affect: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PAIN, 160(9), 1920-1932.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 10, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 25, 2019
Publication Date 2019-09
Deposit Date Apr 17, 2019
Publicly Available Date Aug 1, 2019
Journal PAIN
Print ISSN 0304-3959
Electronic ISSN 1872-6623
Publisher Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 160
Issue 9
Pages 1920-1932
Keywords Musculoskeletal pain, Pain sensitisation, Quantitative sensory testing, Systematic review,
Public URL
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