Pressure pain sensitivity topographical maps reveal bilateral hyperalgesia of the hands in patients with unilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.
OBJECTIVE: To assess topographical pressure pain sensitivity maps of the hand in patients with unilateral carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) as compared with healthy subjects. METHODS: A total of 20 women with CTS (ages 32-52 years) and 20 healthy matched women (ages 32-51 years) were recruited. Pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) were measured bilaterally over 30 locations of the palm of each hand by an assessor blinded to the subjects' conditions. RESULTS: Patients showed lower PPTs in both hands in all of the measurement points as compared with controls (P < 0.001 for all). PPTs were lower in those points over the proximal phalanx of the fingers and the thenar eminency as compared with those points located over the distal phalanx of the fingers (P < 0.001). CTS patients showed lower PPT levels in dermatomes C6, C7, and C8 when compared with healthy controls (P < 0.001 for all), but without differences between dermatomes (P = 0.4). PPT was negatively correlated with both hand pain intensity and duration of symptoms (P < 0.001 for all). CONCLUSION: Our findings revealed bilateral generalized pressure pain hyperalgesia in unilateral CTS because lower PPT levels were found in all of the points. The pressure pain hyperalgesia was not uniformly distributed since PPTs were lower in points over the proximal phalanx of the fingers and the thenar eminency as compared with those points located over the distal phalanx of the fingers. The decrease in PPT levels was associated with the intensity and the duration of the pain symptoms, supporting a role of both peripheral and central sensitization mechanisms in this pain condition.