Sex differences in pain and pain inhibition: multiple explanations of a controversial phenomenon

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Dec;13(12):859-66. doi: 10.1038/nrn3360.


A clear majority of patients with chronic pain are women; however, it has been surprisingly difficult to determine whether this sex bias corresponds to actual sex differences in pain sensitivity. A survey of the currently available epidemiological and laboratory data indicates that the evidence for clinical and experimental sex differences in pain is overwhelming. Various explanations for this phenomenon have been given, ranging from experiential and sociocultural differences in pain experience between men and women to hormonally and genetically driven sex differences in brain neurochemistry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Pain* / pathology
  • Pain* / physiopathology
  • Pain* / psychology
  • Sex Characteristics*

Grant support