Nocebo hyperalgesia can be induced by the observation of a model showing natural pain expressions

Review written by Sam Spinelli info

Key Points

  1. Patients’ pain and expectation of pain can be influenced through observation.
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BACKGROUND & OBJECTIVE

Nocebo hyperalgesia is a worsening of pain through contexts such as conditioning or verbal suggestion (1). This has a powerful impact from social influences that can alter pain behavior. Studies have started to show that observing a model demonstrate pain can induce nocebo hyperalgesia, however the previous studies on this topic did so in a non-natural human way of expressing pain (1). Given that pain has a social communicative role, this study looked to build on prior papers by increasing the ecological validity through using facial expressions of pain as a component of inducing the nocebo hyperalgesia.

Nocebo hyperalgesia is a worsening of pain through contexts such as conditioning or verbal suggestion.
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This study showed that simple observation of an intervention with subsequent painful facial expressions led to an increase in pain expectation.

METHODS

In this study 80 female participants went through a 2x2 mixed design where participants were randomized into 1 of 2 groups – nocebo condition, or control – with a subdivision of receiving first hand stimulation with or without ointment application.

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