No effect of social interaction on experimental pain sensitivity: a randomized experimental study

Casper Glissmann Nim, Sophie Lykkegaard Ravn, Tonny E Andersen, Emma Engelsholm, Fie Hestbech, Inge S Hvidkær, Amanda N Traidl, Søren O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Quantitative sensory testing (QST) is a commonly applied paradigm to investigate pain, which is a subjective experience influenced by a myriad of social and contextual factors. Therefore, it is important to consider the potential sensitivity of QST to the test setting and the social interaction that naturally is a part of it. This may particularly be the case in clinical settings where patients have something at stake. Therefore, we investigated differences in pain responses using QST in different test setups with varying degrees of human interaction. In a parallel three-armed randomized experimental study, we included 92 participants with low back pain and 87 healthy volunteers allocated to 1 of the 3 QST setups: 1 setup with manual tests performed by a human tester, 1 setup with automated tests performed by a robot and orally guided by a human tester, and 1 setup with automated tests performed solely by a robot without social interaction with a human tester. All 3 setups consisted of the same pain tests in the same order, including pressure pain threshold and cold pressor tests. We found no statistically significant differences between setups on the primary outcome of conditioned pain modulation nor any secondary QST outcomes. While this study is not without limitations, the results indicate that QST procedures are robust enough not to be influenced by social interaction to an appreciable degree.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)2112-2121
Publication statusPublished - 1. Sept 2023


  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain
  • Pain Measurement/methods
  • Pain Threshold/physiology
  • Social Interaction


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