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Blood pressure and pain sensitivity in children and adolescents

Authors

  • Sammantha Drouin,

    1. Pediatric Public Health Psychology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Jennifer J. McGrath

    Corresponding author
    • Pediatric Public Health Psychology Laboratory, Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
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  • Jennifer J. McGrath holds a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) New Investigator Award. This research was funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (#MOP185243, #OCO154218). Portions of this paper were previously presented at the 2010 American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, Portland, Oregon. We thank all participants, their families, and the Montreal-area schools who agreed to participate. Special thanks to the Pediatric Public Health Psychology Laboratory staff and volunteers, especially Natasha Hunt and Sabrina Giovanniello, for their continued excellence and dedication.

Address correspondence to: Jennifer J. McGrath, Ph.D., M.P.H., Pediatric Public Psychology Laboratory, Psychology Department, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke Street West, SP 257.3, Montréal, QC H4B 1R6. E-mail: jennifer.mcgrath@concordia.ca

Abstract

Elevated blood pressure is associated with diminished pain sensitivity. While this finding is well established in adults, it is less clear when the relation between blood pressure and pain sensitivity emerges across the life course. Evidence suggests this phenomenon may exist during childhood. Children (N = 309; 56% boys) aged 10–15 years and their parents participated. Blood pressure readings were taken during a resting baseline. Maximum pain intensity was rated using a visual analogue scale (rated 0–10) in response to a finger prick pain induction. Parent-measured resting blood pressure was inversely associated with boys' pain ratings only. Cross-sectionally, lower pain ratings were related to higher SBP, univariately. Longitudinally, pain ratings predicted higher DBP, even after controlling for covariates. Determining when and how the relation between blood pressure and pain sensitivity emerges may elucidate the pathophysiology of hypertension.

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