Tactile acuity is reduced in people with chronic neck pain

Daniel S. Harvie*, Grace Edmond-Hank, Ashley D. Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Background Tactile acuity deficits have been demonstrated in a range of persistent pain conditions and may reflect underlying cortical re-organisation. Objective This study aimed to determine whether tactile acuity is impaired in people with chronic neck pain relative to controls, and whether deficits relate to pain location, duration and intensity. Methods In this cross-sectional study, 20 people with chronic neck pain (5 idiopathic neck pain; 15 whiplash-associated disorder) and 20 pain-free controls underwent two-point discrimination (TPD) testing at the neck, back and arm, and point-to-point (PTP) and graphesthesia tests of tactile acuity at the neck and arm. Results Linear mixed effects models demonstrated a significant group*body region interaction for TPD, Graphesthesia and PTP tests (Ps < 0.001), with post hoc tests showing impaired TPD in people with neck pain relative to controls at the neck, low back, and arm (P ≤ 0.001). Graphesthesia and PTP was also impaired at the neck (P < 0.001) but not the arm (P ≥ 0.48). TPD correlated with intensity and duration of pain (Pearson's r = 0.48, P < 0.05; Pearson's r = 0.77, P < 0.01). There was no sig difference between the two neck pain groups for any tactile acuity measure (TPD: P = 0.054; Graphesthesia; P = 0.67; Point to Point: P = 0.77), however, low power limited confidence in this comparison. Conclusion People with chronic neck pain demonstrated tactile acuity deficits in painful and non-painful regions when measured using the TPD test, with the magnitude of deficits appearing greatest at the neck. The study also revealed a positive relationship between TPD and pain intensity/duration, further supporting the main study finding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
JournalMusculoskeletal Science and Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


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