16 March 2004

Sex differences in anxiety and pain perception

Sex differences in pain perception and anxiety. A psychophysical
study with topical capsaicin
Maud Frota, Jocelyne S. Feine, M. Catherine Bushnella

Pain 108 (2004) 230–236

Much evidence indicates that women experience painful stimuli as more intense than men do. Nevertheless, some data suggest that sustained low-level pain may be more disturbing to men than to women. The current experiment evaluated the hypothesis that pain is more disturbing for men than for women by comparing across genders sensory and emotional aspects of pain evoked by capsaicin. Ten men and 10 women (aged 20–46 years) received topical capsaicin for 30 min on the face in one session and on the ankle in another. The subjects rated on visual analog scales pain intensity, unpleasantness and anxiety each minute during capsaicin application and for 30 min after its removal. During capsaicin application, females rated both pain intensity ðP ¼ 0:04Þ and unpleasantness ðP ¼ 0:05Þ higher than did males. Further, subjects rated pain intensity and unpleasantness higher on the face than on the ankle, although the physical stimulus was the same. Despite their lower pain ratings, men reported more pain-related anxiety than women ðP ¼ 0:02Þ: Moreover, men showed a significant positive correlation between anxiety and pain intensity and unpleasantness, whereas women did not. After removing the capsaicin, there was no overall effect of sex on either intensity ðP ¼ 0:18Þ or unpleasantness ðP ¼ 0:37Þ of the residual sensation. However, men still showed a positive correlation between anxiety and the intensity and unpleasantness of the sensation. Our data confirm with the topical capsaicin model that women rate pain higher than men, but despite their lower pain ratings, males have more anxiety related to pain.
q 2003 International Association for the Study of Pain. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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