Pain Difference In Men And Women 

Living Near Busy Road Adds to tension

Is there any difference between men and women in experiencing pain? Yes, there is quite a difference. A latest study has shown that neurons in the spinal cord process pain signals differently in women compared to men.

Journal BRAIN published the study, which was collaborative effort of several institutions. The researchers mentioned that the findings could lead to better and more personalised treatments for chronic pain, which are desperately needed, especially in light of the opioid epidemic.


Much earlier, men and women are known to experience pain differently. However, the researchers used only male rodents. The new study is unique because it used female and male spinal cord tissue from both rats and humans (generously donated by deceased individuals and their families). By examining the spinal cord tissue in the laboratory, the researchers were able to show that a neuronal growth factor called BDNF plays a major role in amplifying spinal cord pain signalling in male humans and male rats, but not in female humans or female rats. When female rats had their ovaries removed, the difference disappeared, pointing to a hormonal connection.

Lead author Dr Annemarie Dedek opined that developing new pain drugs requires a detailed understanding of how pain is processed at the biological level. Dedek is now a MITACS- and Eli Lillyfunded industrial research fellow at Carleton University and The Ottawa Hospital. Moreover, the author noted that the study laid the foundation for the development of new treatments to help those suffering from chronic pain.


This discovery was possible because of a unique collaboration between the research laboratories of:

    Dr. Mike Hildebrand, associate professor at Carleton University and affiliate investigator at The Ottawa Hospital

    Dr. Eve Tsai, neurosurgeon and Suruchi Bhargava Chair in Spinal Cord and Brain Regeneration Research at The Ottawa Hospital and associate professor at the University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute

    Dr. Yves De Koninck, Director of the CERVO Brain Research Center at Laval University

    Dr. Jian Xu, associate research scientist, Yale University

This is the first time a sex related difference in pain signalling has been identified in human spinal cord tissue. Future studies are required to understand how this biological difference may contribute to differences in pain sensation between men and women. The research was supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the International Association for the Study of Pain Medicine, the Canadian Pain Society, Pfizer Canada, Fonds de recherche du Quebec, Sentinel North and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


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