Evidence for central sensitization in patients with osteoarthritis pain: a systematic literature review

Enrique Lluch, Rui Torres, Jo Nijs, Jessica Van Oosterwijck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

252 Citations (Scopus)


Hyperexcitability of the central nervous system (CNS) has been suggested to play an important role in the chronic pain experienced by osteoarthritis (OA) patients. A systematic review following PRISMA guidelines was performed to evaluate the existing evidence from the literature related to the presence of central sensitization (CS) in patients with OA.Electronic databases PubMed and Web of Science were searched to identify relevant articles using pre-defined keywords regarding CS and OA. Full-text clinical reports addressing studies of CS in human adults with chronic complaints due to osteoarthritis were included and screened for methodological quality by two independent reviewers. From the 40 articles that were initially eligible for methodological quality assessment, 36 articles achieved sufficient scores and therefore were discussed. The majority of these studies were case-control studies and addressed OA of the knee joint. Different subjective and objective parameters considered manifestations of CS, which have been previously reported in other chronic pain conditions such as whiplash or rheumatoid arthritis, were established in subjects with OA pain. Overall results suggest that, although peripheral mechanisms are involved in OA pain, hypersensitivity of the CNS plays a significant role in a subgroup of subjects within this population. Although the majority of the literature provides evidence for the presence of CS in chronic OA pain, clinical identification and treatment of CS in OA is still in its infancy, and future studies with good methodological quality are necessary.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1367-1375
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • osteoarthritis


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