AbstractBackground and purposeMany psychological factors are known to influence pain perception. Among them, intolerance of uncertainty (IU) may play a key modulating role in situations where uncertainty prevails, especially uncertainty regarding the timing of painful events. The objective of this study was to explore the impact of individual differences in IUon pain perception during predictable and unpredictable stimulation timings. We hypothesized that people with high IU, as opposed to those with low IU, would perceive more pain when the timing of painful stimulations cannot be predicted, as compared to when they can.MethodsTwenty (20) healthy adults, aged between 18 and 35 years old, were recruited. Painful sensations were provoked using transcutaneous electrical stimulations of the right sural nerve. By measuring IU (Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale) and subjective pain (verbal numerical rating scale), it was possible to test the relationship between IU and pain perception, by simulating predictable and unpredictable painful experiences. This was done through cued shock interval (CSI) blocks, with either variable timing or fixed timings (long or short time frame). Self-administered questionnaires were also used to measure pain hypervigilance, pain catastrophizing, state anxiety, and trait anxiety.ResultsPearson correlations confirmed the presence of an association (r = 0.63) between IU and the change in pain intensity provoked by unpredictable stimulation timings. Importantly, this association was significant only for stimulations provided at long CSIs, indicating that higher IU scores predicted higher pain intensity scores when stimulation timings became unpredictable, and when the cued delay was long. No association was found between pain scores and other psychological variables.ConclusionsOur results show that IU moderately correlates to the change in pain intensity provoked by unpredictable stimulation timings. High IU scores were associated with a worsening of the subjective pain experience, especially during long delays in an unpredictable situation. These observations suggest that IU could be considered as a psychological variable that is able to influence pain perception in certain situations.ImplicationsAssessing and addressing IU could be an added value in pain-related therapy, especially in chronic pain.
Scandinavian Journal of Pain – de Gruyter
Published: Oct 1, 2017
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