Pain and sex hormones: a review of current understanding

Pain Manag. 2016;6(3):285-96. doi: 10.2217/pmt-2015-0002. Epub 2016 Mar 17.


Multiple epidemiologic studies have demonstrated an increased prevalence for women in several chronic pain disorders. Clinical and experimental investigations have consistently demonstrated sex-specific differences in pain sensitivity and pain threshold. Even though the underlying mechanisms responsible for these differences have not yet been elucidated, the logical possibility of gonadal hormone influence on nociceptive processing has garnered recent attention. In this review, we evaluated the complex literature regarding gonadal hormones and their influence on pain perception. We reviewed the numerous functions of gonadal hormones, discussed the influence of these hormones on several common chronic pain syndromes (migraine, tension and cluster headaches, fibromyalgia, temporomandibular syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and back pain, among others), and have attempted to draw conclusions from the available data.

Keywords: chronic pain; female; gender differences; gonadal steroid hormones; humans; male; pain; sex differences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nociception / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Threshold / physiology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones