Volume 7 Supplement 1
Ethnicity, steroid hormones, and pain perception
© Mechlin and Girdler; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2008
Published: 17 April 2008
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship of steroid hormones to pain sensitivity in African Americans (AAs) and non-Hispanic Whites (nHWs).
Materials and methods
Ninety-one medically healthy men (24 AAs, 21 nHWs) and women in the late follicular phase of their menstrual cycles (26 AAs, 20 nHWs) were tested for voluntary threshold and tolerance to ischemic (IS), thermal heat (TH), and cold pressor (CP) pain. Blood was sampled after a rest period for serum testosterone and progesterone (females).
In nHW men testosterone was directly related to IS threshold and TH tolerance (rs = +.61 and +.56, ps <.05). In nHW women testosterone was inversely related to IS threshold (r = −.45, p <.05). In nHW women progesterone was also inversely associated with IS tolerance and TH threshold and tolerance (rs = −.44 to −.56, ps <.05), and IS threshold (r = −.41, p <.06). There were no relationships between pain sensitivity and testosterone or progesterone in AAs.
This is the first study in humans to document a relationship between testosterone and pain sensitivity, which may be mediated by neuroactive metabolites of testosterone . The relationship between progesterone and pain sensitivity in nHW women may explain findings on menstrual cycle and pain sensitivity [2, 3], and also fits with our previous report that increased allopregnanalone, a neuroactive metabolite of progesterone, is associated with increased pain sensitivity . The results suggest ethnic and gender differences in putative steroid hormone regulation of pain perception.
- Edinger KL, Frye CA: Testosterone's anti-anxiety and analgesic effects may be due in part to actions of its 5α-reduced metabolites in the hippocampus. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005, 30: 418-430. 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2004.11.001.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Fillingim R.B., Maixner W., Girdler S.S., Light K.C., Harris B.M., Sheps D.S., Mason G.A: Ischemic but not thermal pain sensitivity varies across the menstrual cycle. Psychosomatic Medicine. 1997, 59 (5): 512-520.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Pfleeger M., Straneva P.A., Fillingim R.B., Maixner W., Girdler S.S.: Menstrual cycle, blood pressure and ischemic pain sensitivity in women: a preliminary investigation. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 1997, 27: 161-166. 10.1016/S0167-8760(97)00058-5.View ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
- Mechlin B, Morrow AL, Maixner W, Girdler SS: The Relationship of Allopregnanolone Immunoreactivity and HPA-Axis Measures to Experimental Pain Sensitivity: Evidence for Ethnic Differences. Pain. 2007, 131: 142-152. 10.1016/j.pain.2006.12.027.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd.