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Effects of a Force Production Task and a Working Memory Task on Pain Perception

Journal of Pain
DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2013.07.012
  • Force
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Working Memory
  • Analgesia
  • Pain
  • Cognition


Abstract The goal in the current study was to examine the analgesic effects of a pinch grip-force production task and a working memory task when pain-eliciting thermal stimulation was delivered simultaneously to the left or right hand during task performance. Control conditions for visual distraction and thermal stimulation were included, and force performance measures and working memory performance measures were collected and analyzed. Our experiments revealed 3 novel findings. First, we showed that accurate isometric force contractions elicit an analgesic effect when pain-eliciting thermal stimulation was delivered during task performance. Second, the magnitude of the analgesic effect was not different when the pain-eliciting stimulus was delivered to the left or right hand during the force task or the working memory task. Third, we found no correlation between analgesia scores during the force task and the working memory task. Our findings have clinical implications for rehabilitation settings because they suggest that acute force production by one limb influences pain perception that is simultaneously experienced in another limb. From a theoretical perspective, we interpret our findings on force and memory driven analgesia in the context of a centralized pain inhibitory response. Perspective This article shows that force production and working memory have analgesic effects irrespective of which side of the body pain is experienced on. Analgesia scores were not correlated, however, suggesting that some individuals experience more pain relief from a force task as compared to a working memory task and vice versa.

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