Modulation of pain sensation by stress-related testosterone and cortisol

Anaesthesia. 2012 Oct;67(10):1146-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2044.2012.07267.x. Epub 2012 Jul 16.


Stress increases cortisol and decreases testosterone. It is not known whether pain is affected by stress-related testosterone. Therefore, we investigated whether stress can affect pain perception by decreasing testosterone and increasing cortisol. Pain thresholds, pain and anxiety ratings and salivary testosterone and cortisol levels were measured in 46 healthy men during resting and stressful conditions. Pain was induced by electrical stimulation. Stress was induced by having participants perform a medical test. Stress significantly increased anxiety ratings and salivary cortisol levels, but decreased salivary testosterone levels. Stress also increased pain ratings and decreased pain thresholds. During stress, cortisol levels were negatively correlated with pain thresholds and testosterone levels were positively correlated with pain thresholds. Results indicated that testosterone can decrease and cortisol can increase pain induced by electrical stimulation, suggesting that acute clinical pain may be relieved by controlling stress and managing consequent stress-related testosterone and cortisol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hydrocortisone / physiology*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Perception
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Testosterone / metabolism
  • Testosterone / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Testosterone
  • Hydrocortisone