Nerve Pain (Neuropathic Pain) and Heart Rate Variability

Dear Pain Matters blog readers,

I recently enjoyed this excellent Review Paper:

Heart Rate Variability and Experimentally Induced Pain in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review (March 2014)

While chronic pain is currently assessed via the McGill Pain Questionnaire, and other diagnostic tests, there is scope for additional non-invasive tests for assessing pain levels.  Heart rate variability (HRV) testing may be done ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after’ pain treatment(s) in a real-time manner.

Heart rate variability measures can provide important insight into autonomic nervous system (ANS) function.  Low HRV has been linked with many chronic conditions including heart disease.

Julian’s team reviewed 20 different studies involving experimentally-induced pain in healthy adults.  It found that induced pain in healthy people usually resulted in increased sympathetic activity and reduced parasympathetic (vagal) activity.

Many different chronic inflammatory conditions have been linked with ANS dysfunction, as indexed by HRV.

In the ‘Conclusion’ of the Review Paper by Thayer’s team, it is stated that reduced HRV is observed in many painful conditions including:

– Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS);

– Fibromyalgia;

– Neck pain;

– Irritable bowel syndrome; and

– Headache.

Ongoing research is warranted to ascertain the usefulness of HRV in the assessment of pain levels, as well as its ability to assess the effectiveness of pain treatments.

Wishing all pain patients a pain-free day,

Sabina Walker

Reference

Koenig, Jarczok, Ellis, Hillecke, Thayer; Heart Rate Variability and Experimentally Induced Pain in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review; European Journal of Pain (March 2014); Volume 18, Issue 3, Pages 301–314

http://robjellis.net/papers/Koenig_et_al_2013_EJP.pdf

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