Pain sensitivity subgroups in individuals with spine pain: Potential relevance to short-term clinical outcome

Rogelio A. Coronado, Joel E. Bialosky, Michael E. Robinson, Steven Z. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background. Cluster analysis can be used to identify individuals similar in profile based on response to multiple pain sensitivity measures. There are limited investigations into how empirically derived pain sensitivity subgroups influence clinical outcomes for individuals with spine pain. Objective. The purposes of this study were: (1) to investigate empirically derived subgroups based on pressure and thermal pain sensitivity in individuals with spine pain and (2) to examine subgroup influence on 2-week clinical pain intensity and disability outcomes. Design. A secondary analysis of data from 2 randomized trials was conducted. Methods. Baseline and 2-week outcome data from 157 participants with low back pain (n=110) and neck pain (n=47) were examined. Participants completed demographic, psychological, and clinical information and were assessed using pain sensitivity protocols, including pressure (suprathreshold pressure pain) and thermal pain sensitivity (thermal heat threshold and tolerance, suprathreshold heat pain, temporal summation). A hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis was used to create subgroups based on pain sensitivity responses. Differences in data for baseline variables, clinical pain intensity, and disability were examined. Results. Three pain sensitivity cluster groups were derived: low pain sensitivity, high thermal static sensitivity, and high pressure and thermal dynamic sensitivity. There were differences in the proportion of individuals meeting a 30% change in pain intensity, where fewer individuals within the high pressure and thermal dynamic sensitivity group (adjusted odds ratio=0.3; 95% confidence interval=0.1, 0.8) achieved successful outcomes. Limitations. Only 2-week outcomes are reported. Conclusions. Distinct pain sensitivity cluster groups for individuals with spine pain were identified, with the high pressure and thermal dynamic sensitivity group showing worse clinical outcome for pain intensity. Future studies should aim to confirm these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1111-1122
Number of pages12
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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