Psychological factors and conditioned pain modulation: A meta-analysis

Hadas Nahman-Averbuch, Rony Reuven Nir, Elliot Sprecher, David Yarnitsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


Objective: Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) responses may be affected by psychological factors such as anxiety, depression, and pain catastrophizing; however, most studies on CPM do not address these relations as their primary outcome. The aim of this meta-analysis was to analyze the findings regarding the associations between CPM responses and psychological factors in both painfree individuals and pain patients. Materials and Methods: After a comprehensive PubMed search, 37 articles were found to be suitable for inclusion. Analyses used DerSimonian and Laird's random-effects model on Fisher's ztransforms of correlations; potential publication bias was tested using funnel plots and Egger's regression test for funnel plot asymmetry. Six meta-analyses were performed examining the correlations between anxiety, depression, and pain catastrophizing, and CPM responses in healthy individuals and pain patients. Results: No significant correlations between CPM responses and any of the examined psychological factors were found. However, a secondary analysis, comparing modality-specific CPM responses and psychological factors in healthy individuals, revealed the following: (1) pressure-based CPM responses were correlated with anxiety (grand mean correlation in original units r= -0.1087; 95% confidence limits, -0.1752 to -0.0411); (2) heat-based CPM was correlated with depression (r=0.2443; 95% confidence limits, 0.0150 to 0.4492); and (3) electrical-based CPM was correlated with pain catastrophizing levels (r= -0.1501; 95% confidence limits, -0.2403 to -0.0574). Discussion: Certain psychological factors seem to be associated with modality-specific CPM responses in healthy individuals. This potentially supports the notion that CPM paradigms evoked by different stimulation modalities represent different underlying mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-554
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Conditioned pain modulation
  • Depression
  • Pain catastrophizing
  • Psychological factors


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