Effect of Ambient Temperature on Human Pain and Temperature Perception

Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, March 2000, 92(3): pp. 699-707; Irina A. Strigo, B.Sc., Franco Carli, M.D., M. Catherine Bushnell, Ph.D.

Abstract Content:  The sensation of pain is dependent on many factors, including the strength of the noxious stimulus, state of the organism, and environmental variables. One variable that may be important in nociceptive processing is environmental temperature. Extremely cold or hot environmental temperatures produce an opioid-mediated stress-produced analgesia (see Bodnar et al.  for review). 1 Several studies have also shown that moderately cool environmental temperatures also produce an antinociceptive effect in animals. These animal studies suggest that human pain perception may be dependent upon ambient temperature. Mean skin temperatures were measured throughout the experiment by infrared pyrometer. Conclusions: the results indicate that, in humans, a decrease in skin temperature following exposure to cool environments reduces thermal pain.