Hemiplegic shoulder pain: Evidence of a neuropathic origin

Gabi Zeilig, Michal Rivel, Harold Weingarden, Evgeni Gaidoukov, Ruth Defrin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hemiplegic shoulder pain (HSP) is common after stroke. Whereas most studies have concentrated on the possible musculoskeletal factors underlying HSP, neuropathic aspects have hardly been studied. Our aim was to explore the possible neuropathic components in HSP, and if identified, whether they are specific to the shoulder or characteristic of the entire affected side. Participants included 30 poststroke patients, 16 with and 14 without HSP, and 15 healthy controls. The thresholds of warmth, cold, heat-pain, touch, and graphesthesia were measured in the intact and affected shoulder and in the affected lower leg. They were also assessed for the presence of allodynia and hyperpathia, and computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain were reviewed. In addition, chronic pain was characterized. Participants with HSP exhibited higher rates of parietal lobe damage (P < 0.05) compared to those without HSP. Both poststroke groups exhibited higher sensory thresholds than healthy controls. Those with HSP had higher heat-pain thresholds in both the affected shoulder (P < 0.001) and leg (P < 0.01), exhibited higher rates of hyperpathia in both these regions (each P < 0.001), and more often reported chronic pain throughout the affected side (P < 0.001) than those without HSP. The more prominent sensory alterations in the shoulder region suggest that neuropathic factors play a role in HSP. The clinical evidence of damage to the spinothalamic-thalamocortical system in the affected shoulder and leg, the presence of chronic pain throughout the affected side, and the more frequent involvement of the parietal cortex all suggest that the neuropathic component is of central origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-271
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Central pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Sensory testing
  • Shoulder pain
  • Stroke


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