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Pain. 2013 Mar;154(3):419-26. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2012.12.001. Epub 2012 Dec 7.

Pain-related anxiety influences pain perception differently in men and women: a quantitative sensory test across thermal pain modalities.

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Department of Psychology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.


The sexes differ with respect to perception of experimental pain. Anxiety influences pain perception more in men than in women; however, there lacks research exploring which anxiety constructs influence pain perception differentially between men and women. Furthermore, research examining whether depression is associated with pain perception differently between the sexes remains scant. The present investigation was designed to examine how trait anxiety, pain-related anxiety constructs (ie, fear of pain, pain-related anxiety, anxiety sensitivity), and depression are associated with pain perception between the sexes. A total of 95 nonclinical participants (55% women) completed measures assessing the constructs of interest and participated in quantitative sensory testing using heat and cold stimuli administered by a Medoc Pathway Pain and Sensory Evaluation System. The findings suggest that pain-related anxiety constructs, but not trait anxiety, are associated with pain perception. Furthermore, these constructs are associated with pain intensity ratings in men and pain tolerance levels in women. This contrasts with previous research suggesting that anxiety influences pain perception mostly or uniquely in men. Depression was not systematically associated with pain perception in either sex. Systematic relationships were not identified that allow conclusions regarding how fear of pain, pain-related anxiety, and anxiety sensitivity may contribute to pain perception differentially in men and women; however, anxiety sensitivity was associated with increased pain tolerance, a novel finding needing further examination. The results provide directions for future research and clinical endeavors and support that fear and anxiety are important features associated with hyperalgesia in both men and women.

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