While hyperalgesia (increased pain sensitivity) has been suggested to contribute to the increased prevalence of clinical pain in Parkinson’s disease (PD), experimental research is equivocal and mechanisms are poorly understood. We conducted a meta-analysis of studies comparing PD patients to healthy controls (HCs) in their response to experimental pain stimuli. Articles were acquired through systematic searches of major databases from inception until 10/2016. Twenty-six studies met inclusion criteria, comprising 1292 participants (PD=739, HCs=553). Random effects meta-analysis of standardized mean differences (SMD) revealed lower pain threshold (indicating hyperalgesia) in PD patients during unmedicated OFF states (SMD=0.51) which was attenuated during dopamine-medicated ON states (SMD=0.23), but unaffected by age, PD duration or PD severity. Analysis of 6 studies employing suprathreshold stimulation paradigms indicated greater pain in PD patients, just failing to reach significance (SMD=0.30, p=0.06).
These findings (a) support the existence of hyperalgesia in PD, which could contribute to the onset/intensity of clinical pain, and (b) implicate dopamine deficiency as a potential underlying mechanism, which may present opportunities for the development of novel analgesic strategies.