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Keywords:

  • Menstrual cycle;
  • Pain sensitivity;
  • Gender differences

Abstract

Influence of menstrual cycle phase on experimental pain sensitivity in women and on gender differences in pain sensitivity was examined in 48 men and 49 women in response to cold pressor, heat, and ischemic pain. Each woman was tested at three points in their menstrual cycle in randomized order, the early follicular, late follicular, and luteal phases, while men were also tested three times, controlling for number of days between test sessions. Cycle phase was confirmed via serum hormone levels. As expected, women were significantly more sensitive to cold pain (p < .01), to heat pain (p < .0001), and to ischemic pain (p < .01) than men. However, pain perception during each task was not influenced by the menstrual cycle in women, nor did the menstrual cycle influence the magnitude of the gender differences in pain sensitivity. These results indicate that although women are more sensitive to a variety of noxious stimuli than men, menstrual cycle phase does not appear to moderate those differences in healthy men and women.