Association Between Pain Sensitization and Disease Activity in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Cross-Sectional Study

Yvonne C. Lee, Clifton O. Bingham, Robert R. Edwards, Wendy Marder, Kristine Phillips, Marcy B. Bolster, Daniel J. Clauw, Larry W. Moreland, Bing Lu, Alyssa Wohlfahrt, Zhi Zhang, Tuhina Neogi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Objective: Pain sensitization may contribute to pain severity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), impacting disease activity assessment. We examined whether pain processing mechanisms were associated with disease activity among RA patients with active disease. Methods: The study included 139 subjects enrolled in the Central Pain in Rheumatoid Arthritis cohort. Subjects underwent quantitative sensory testing (QST), including assessment of pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) at multiple sites, conditioned pain modulation, and temporal summation. RA disease activity was assessed using the Clinical Disease Activity Index (CDAI) and its components. We examined cross-sectional associations between QST measures and disease activity using linear regression. Results: Low PPTs (high pain sensitization) at all sites were associated with high CDAI scores (P ≤ 0.03) and tender joint counts (P ≤ 0.002). Associations between PPTs and patient global assessments were also seen at most sites. High temporal summation at the forearm (also reflecting high pain sensitization) was significantly associated with high CDAI scores (P = 0.02), patient global assessment scores (P = 0.0006), evaluator global assessment scores (P = 0.01), and tender joint counts (P = 0.02). Conversely, conditioned pain modulation (a measure of descending inhibitory pain pathways) was associated only with tender joint count (P = 0.03). Conclusion: High pain sensitization is associated with elevations in disease activity measures. Longitudinal studies are underway to elucidate the cause–effect relationships between pain sensitization and inflammatory disease activity in RA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-204
Number of pages8
JournalArthritis Care and Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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