Considerable evidence exists for sex differences in human pain sensitivity. Women typically report a higher incidence of various painful conditions and report that the conditions are more painful when compared to men. In the present study, we sought to determine whether sex differences in pain sensitivity are observed using a lumbar radiculopathy model of low back pain in the rat and whether removal or alteration of gonadal hormones at specific timepoints can modulate these sex differences. Pubertal and adult male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were castrated 2 or 6 weeks prior to L5 nerve root injury to determine the activational hormonal effects. In a separate study, neonatal male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were either castrated or injected with testosterone, respectively, on postnatal day one to determine the organizational effects of gonadal hormones on L5 nerve root injury-induced behavioral hypersensitivity. Our results demonstrate that there was a statistically significant sex difference in the magnitude of mechanical allodynia and thermal hyperalgesia following experimentally induced radiculopathy in the rat: females demonstrated decreased thresholds to tactile and thermal stimuli as compared to males. Furthermore, the enhanced female hypersensitivity was reversed in pubertal and adult animals ovariectomized 6 weeks, but not 2 weeks prior to L5 nerve root injury. Our results demonstrate that the activational effects of gonadal hormones mediate the enhanced female tactile and thermal hypersensitivity following L5 nerve root injury. These results suggest that manipulation of gonadal hormones may be a potential source for novel therapies for chronic pain in women.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.pain.2004.12.006
View details for Web of Science ID 000227683500010
View details for PubMedID 15733633