Altered pain and visual sensitivity in humans: the effects of acute and chronic stress
Abstract: In the runner study, as measured by tourniquet ischemic pain, exercise stress produced hypoalgesia 20 minutes post-run, followed by hyperalgesia and euphoria at 30 minutes. The hypoalgesia and euphoria were reversed by naloxone. Exercise stress also produced a decrease in P(A), suggesting hypoalgesia to the thermal cutaneous stimulation. However, this analgesia was not naloxone reversible. Nor did exercise stress produce analgesia to cold-pressor pain. In the acupuncture study, noxious electrical stimulation of classical acupuncture sites failed to produce analgesia either during or after stimulation. However, expectation did produce a change in the pain report criterion, but only in the acupunctured arm. Noxious electrical stimulation (TENS) of the median nerve produced no analgesia outside of the related segmental area, that is, acute electrical pain did not produce generalized hypoalgesia. Thus, the effects of the stress produced by noxious electrical stimulation differ from that produced by exercise. In contrast to the results of the acute pain studies, chronic clinical pain, which combines mental stress and pain stress, produced strong hypoalgesia and anesthesia. Again, in contrast to the acute experimental pain studies, the emotional stress of mental illness produces hypoalgesia, but not anesthesia. Finally, the somatosensory system is not the only the sensory system affected by stress. Cold-pressor pain decreases visual sensitivity both during and for a few minutes following stimulation, and does not interfere with short-term (supra-digit span) memory.