Widespread Pressure Pain Sensitivity and Referred Pain from Trigger Points in Patients with Upper Thoracic Spine Pain

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Objectives: The presence of trigger points (MTrPs) and pressure pain sensitivity has been well documented in subjects with neck and back pain; however, it has yet to be examined in people with upper thoracic spine pain. The purpose of this study was to investigate the presence of MTrPs and mechanical pain sensitivity in individuals with upper thoracic spine pain. Methods: Seventeen subjects with upper thoracic spine pain and 17 pain-free controls without spine pain participated. MTrPs were examined bilaterally in the upper trapezius, rhomboid, iliocostalis thoracic, levator scapulae, infraspinatus, and anterior and middle scalene muscles. Pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) were assessed over T2, the C5-C6 zygapophyseal joint, the second metacarpal, and the tibialis anterior. Results: The numbers of MTrPs between both groups were significantly different (P < 0.001) between patients and controls. The number of MTrPs for each patient with upper thoracic spine pain was 12.4 ± 2.8 (5.7 ± 4.0 active TrPs, 6.7 ± 3.4 latent TrPs). The distribution of MTrPs was significantly different between groups, and active MTrPs within the rhomboid (75%), anterior scalene (65%), and middle scalene (47%) were the most prevalent in patients with upper thoracic spine pain. A higher number of active MTrPs was associated with greater pain intensity and longer duration of pain history. Conclusions: This study identified active MTrPs and widespread pain hypersensitivity in subjects with upper thoracic spine pain compared with asymptomatic people. Identifying proper treatment strategies might be able to reduce pain and improve function in individuals with upper thoracic spine pain. However, future studies are needed to examine this.

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