No relevant differences in conditioned pain modulation effects between parallel and sequential test design. A cross-sectional observational study

Thumbnail Image
File version

Version of Record (VoR)

Reezigt, Roland R
Kielstra, Sjoerd C
Coppieters, Michel W
Scholten-Peeters, Gwendolyne GM
Griffith University Author(s)
Primary Supervisor
Other Supervisors
File type(s)

Background Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) is measured by comparing pain induced by a test stimulus with pain induced by the same test stimulus, either during (parallel design) or after (sequential design) the conditioning stimulus. Whether design, conditioning stimulus intensity and test stimulus selection affect CPM remains unclear.

Methods CPM effects were evaluated in healthy participants (N = 89) at the neck, forearm and lower leg using the cold pressor test as the conditioning stimulus. In three separate experiments, we compared the impact of (1) design (sequential versus parallel), (2) conditioning stimulus intensity (VAS 40/100 versus VAS 60/100), and (3) test stimulus selection (single versus dual, i.e., mechanical and thermal). Statistical analyses of the main effect of design (adjusted for order) and experiment were conducted using linear mixed models with random intercepts.

Results No significant differences were identified in absolute CPM data. In relative CPM data, a sequential design resulted in a slightly lower CPM effect compared to a parallel design, and only with a mechanical test stimulus at the neck (−6.1%; 95% CI [−10.1 to −2.1]) and lower leg (−5.9%; 95% CI [−11.7 to −0.1]) but not forearm (−4.5%; 95% CI [−9.0 to 0.1]). Conditioning stimulus intensity and test stimulus selection did not influence the CPM effect nor the difference in CPM effects derived from parallel versus sequential designs.

Conclusions Differences in CPM effects between protocols were minimal or absent. A parallel design may lead to a minimally higher relative CPM effect when using a mechanical test stimulus. The conditioning stimulus intensities assessed in this study and performing two test stimuli did not substantially influence the differences between designs nor the magnitude of the CPM effect.

Journal Title


Conference Title
Book Title


Thesis Type
Degree Program
Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement

© 2021 Reezigt et al. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Item Access Status
Access the data
Related item(s)

Health sciences

Biological sciences

Persistent link to this record

Reezigt, RR; Kielstra, SC; Coppieters, MW; Scholten-Peeters, GGM, No relevant differences in conditioned pain modulation effects between parallel and sequential test design. A cross-sectional observational study, PeerJ, 9, pp. e12330