Tenderness as measured by pressure pain thresholds extends beyond the pelvis in chronic pelvic pain syndrome in men

J Sex Med. 2011 Jan;8(1):232-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2010.02041.x. Epub 2010 Oct 4.


Introduction: Urological Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (UCPPS) in men is a common complaint, and causes significant impairment in quality of life. Until recently, the focus of research has primarily been on pain symptoms or underlying prostate pathology. However, new clinical phenotyping demonstrates pelvic tenderness to be an important component of UCPPS. Unfortunately, mechanisms underlying tenderness remain to be understood, and tenderness itself has not been well quantified.

Aim: To validate the use of pressure pain thresholds as a method of measuring tenderness in UCPPS and to demonstrate that tenderness extends beyond the pelvis.

Methods: Fifty-five men diagnosed with UCPPS and 46 healthy controls were recruited through referrals and advertisements. Each participant filled out questionnaires and was assessed by a structured interview. In addition, all UCPPS men underwent urological assessment.

Main outcome measures: Demographic information was collected as well as the National Institutes of Health-Chronic Prostatitis Symptom Index. Using a digital algometer, pressure pain thresholds on 10 genito-pelvic and one control site (deltoid) were measured. The four-glass test was used for all UCPPS men.

Results: UCPPS men had reliably lower pain thresholds compared to controls in all locations, including the deltoid. UCPPS men also demonstrated consistently lower overall pain thresholds regardless of location. Furthermore, pressure pain thresholds were able to correctly distinguish patients from controls 77% of the time. Prostate infection did not influence pain thresholds.

Conclusions: Lower pelvic and nonpelvic thresholds suggest the involvement of a central mechanism in UCPPS. Overall, the data confirm the move away from a prostate-based view of UCPPS. This is supported by the failure to find threshold differences related to prostate infection. Pressure pain thresholds appear to be a promising method of assessing tenderness in UCPPS.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / methods*
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Palpation
  • Pelvic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pressure
  • Prostatitis