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Thermosensitivity of muscle: high-intensity thermal stimulation of muscle tissue induces muscle pain in humans

By T Graven-Nielsen, L Arendt-Nielsen and S Mense


Small-calibre afferent units responding to thermal stimuli have previously been reported to exist in muscle. The question as to whether these receptors in humans mediate subjective thermal sensations from muscle remains unresolved. The aims of the present study were to determine in humans whether intramuscular injection of warm and cold isotonic saline elicits temperature sensations, muscle pain or any other sensations. In 15 subjects, no thermal sensations assessed on a temperature visual analogue scale (VAS) could be detected with intramuscular injections of isotonic saline (1.5 ml) into the anterior tibial muscle at temperatures ranging from 8 to 48 °C. The same subjects recorded strongly increasing scores on a temperature VAS when thermal stimuli in the same intensity range were applied to the skin overlying the muscle by a contact thermode. However, i.m. isotonic saline of 48 °C induced muscle pain with peak scores of 3.2 ± 0.8 cm on a VAS scale ranging from 0 to 10 cm. Using the the McGill pain questionnaire a subgroup, of subjects qualitatively described the pain using the ‘thermal hot’ and ‘dullness’ word groups. Temperature measurements within the muscle during the stimulating injections showed that the time course of the pain sensation elicited by saline at 48 °C paralleled that of the intramuscular temperature and far outlasted the injection time. The present data show that high-intensity thermal stimulation of muscle is associated with muscle pain. High-threshold warm-sensitive receptors may mediate the pain following activation by temperatures of 48 °C or more. Taken together, the data indicate that thermosensation from a given volume of muscle is less potent than nociception

Topics: Research Papers
Publisher: Blackwell Science Inc
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Provided by: PubMed Central
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