Gait Adaptation to a Phase-Specific Nociceptive Electrical Stimulation Applied at the Ankle: A Model to Study Musculoskeletal-Like Pain.

TitleGait Adaptation to a Phase-Specific Nociceptive Electrical Stimulation Applied at the Ankle: A Model to Study Musculoskeletal-Like Pain.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsBertrand-Charette, M, Jeffrey-Gauthier, R, Roy, J-S, Bouyer, LJ
JournalFront Hum Neurosci
Date Published2021

Lower limb pain, whether induced experimentally or as a result of a musculoskeletal injury, can impair motor control, leading to gait adaptations such as increased muscle stiffness or modified load distribution around joints. These adaptations may initially reduce pain but can also lead to longer-term maladaptive plasticity and to the development of chronic pain. In humans, many current experimental musculoskeletal-like pain models are invasive, and most don't accurately reproduce the movement-related characteristics of musculoskeletal pain. The main objective of this study was to measure pain adaptation strategies during gait of a musculoskeletal-like experimental pain protocol induced by phase-specific, non-invasive electrical stimulation. Sixteen healthy participants walked on a treadmill at 4 km/h for three consecutive periods (BASELINE, PAIN, and POST-PAIN). Painful electrical stimulations were delivered at heel strike for the duration of heel contact (HC) using electrodes placed around the right lateral malleolus to mimic ankle sprains. Gait adaptations were quantified bilaterally using instrumented pressure-sensitive insoles. One-way ANOVAs and group time course analyses were performed to characterize the impact of electrical stimulation on heel and forefoot contact pressure and contact duration. During the first few painful strides, peak HC pressure decreased on the painful side (8.6 ± 1.0%, < 0.0001) and increased on the non-stimulated side (11.9 ± 0.9%, < 0.0001) while HC duration was significantly reduced bilaterally (painful: 12.1 ± 0.9%, < 0.0001; non-stimulated: 4.8 ± 0.8%, < 0.0001). No clinically meaningful modifications were observed for the forefoot. One minute after the onset of painful stimulation, perceived pain levels stabilized and peak HC pressure remained significantly decreased on the painful side, while the other gait adaptations returned to pre-stimulation values. These results demonstrate that a non-invasive, phase-specific pain can produce a stable painful gait pattern. Therefore, this protocol will be useful to study musculoskeletal pain locomotor adaptation strategies under controlled conditions.

Alternate JournalFront Hum Neurosci
PubMed ID34975433
PubMed Central IDPMC8718644