Don’t Assume the Control Group Is Normal—People with Asymptomatic Tendon Pathology Have Higher Pressure Pain Thresholds Academic Article uri icon


  • Objective:Pain pressure thresholds (PPT) are used to study peripheral and central pain processing. In the tendon, pathological changes may exist without pain. This pilot study aimed to compare PPT between individuals with normal tendons and asymptomatic tendon pathology, and between individuals with and without a history of tendon pain. Methods:The patellar, Achilles, and supraspinatus tendons of 128 asymptomatic participants were examined with ultrasound. Global PPT average was determined using a digital algometer at the patellar tendon, quadriceps muscle, L3 spinous process, and deltoid muscle insertion. Participants were separated into three groups: (1) healthy control group (no pathology, no history of pain), (2) tendon pathology at any site without a history of pain, (3) history of tendon pain anywhere. Results:There were 92 controls, seven with asymptomatic pathology and 29 with a history of tendon pain. Asymptomatic tendon pathology at any site (without a history of pain) was associated with globally increased PPTs compared with controls (P < 0.001, pathology N = 7, N = 92 controls). Matched pair analysis remained significant (P < 0.004). A history of tendon pain was associated with globally increased PPTs compared with the control group (P = 0.026). Matched pair analysis was not significant (P = 0.122). Conclusions:Asymptomatic tendon pathology is associated with higher PPTs. These findings point toward central nervous system adaptations but in a novel way-central desensitization. This challenges the validity of conclusions drawn from PPT studies that do not verify normal structure in the control group; artificial inflation of control group data may incorrectly indicate decreased PPTs in the comparison group.

publication date

  • 2018