Body site variation of heat pain sensitivity

Dorothy J. Taylor, Sandra L.B. Mcgillis, Joel D. Greenspan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thirty-two healthy human subjects provided thresholds for the perception of slight and moderate heat pain. Four body sites were tested bilaterally: thenar eminence of the hand, plantar surface of the foot, dorsolateral forearm, and lateral calf. Thresholds for the glabrous skin of the hand and foot were significantly greater than thresholds for the hairy skin of the arm and leg, the average difference being 1.3°c. Laterality was not a statistically significant factor. Thresholds increased progressively over 2-4 weeks of repeated testing, resulting in values averaging 0.6°c higher in the later sessions. The difference between moderate and slight pain thresholds averaged 1.1°c, and was consistent across body sites and with repeated testing. The threshold values were normally distributed across subjects. Considerable intersubject variability was observed for both slight and moderate pain thresholds, more so on glabrous than on hairy skin sites. In comparison, the distribution of right-left difference values was narrower, demonstrating less intrasubject versus intersubject variability. The highly significant difference in thresholds between glabrous and hairy skin sites demonstrates the importance of skin type for heat pain sensitivity. In contrast, there was no significant difference in heat pain sensitivity between comparable sites on the upper versus lower extremities, or between left and right sides.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-465
Number of pages11
JournalSomatosensory & Motor Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Cutaneous sensation
  • Extremities
  • Pain
  • Sensory thresholds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


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