Gender aspects of the pain syndrome
In recent years, the subject of sex differences in the pain experience attracts a growing interest. The epidemiological and clinical data indicate that women have increased risk of chronic pain, and according to some sources, even experience more intense pain.
The hypothetical biological mechanisms underlying sex differences in pain perception consist in the modulating effects produced by sex hormones in relation to the neural substrate. This is confirmed by data on the distribution of gonadal hormones and their receptors in the areas of the peripheral and central nervous system that provide nociceptive transmission.
The complexity of the estradiol and progesterone effects on pain sensitivity lies in the fact that, according to various data, both have pre-nociceptive and antinociceptive effects, and testosterone appears to be more characterized by antinociceptive properties. The lion’s share of researches demonstrates the effect of a clinical pain exacerbation during the menstrual cycle.
There is irrefutable information about gender differences in responses to drug and non-drug pain treatment, although the results vary depending on a specific therapy and may depend on pain characteristics. Since the recommended dosage of a medication is often based on an “average” male weigh 70 kg, female patients may be facing the risk of increased therapeutic or adverse effects of a drug. The cause is in a higher average percentage of body fat, a lower mean body weight, which contributes to higher median drug concentrations compared with male patients.
At present, the available evidence does not allow adapting the methods of pain syndrome treatment to a gender. However, such innovations are quite possible and desirable in the foreseeable future. Additional studies will be required to clarify the mechanisms that determine sex differences in pain responses in order to provide adequate pain relief, according to the patient’s needs.
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