Elevation of pain threshold by vaginal stimulation in women

Pain. 1985 Apr;21(4):357-367. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(85)90164-2.


In 2 studies with 10 women each, vaginal self-stimulation significantly increased the threshold to detect and tolerate painful finger compression, but did not significantly affect the threshold to detect innocuous tactile stimulation. The vaginal self-stimulation was applied with a specially designed pressure transducer assembly to produce a report of pressure or pleasure. In the first study, 6 of the women perceived the vaginal stimulation as producing pleasure. During that condition, the pain tolerance threshold increased significantly by 36.8% and the pain detection threshold increased significantly by 53%. A second study utilized other types of stimuli. Vaginal self-stimulation perceived as pressure significantly increased the pain tolerance threshold by 40.3% and the pain detection threshold by 47.4%. In the second study, when the vaginal stimulation was self-applied in a manner that produced orgasm, the pain tolerance threshold and pain detection threshold increased significantly by 74.6% and 106.7% respectively, while the tactile threshold remained unaffected. A variety of control conditions, including various types of distraction, did not significantly elevate pain or tactile thresholds. We conclude that in women, vaginal self-stimulation decreases pain sensitivity, but does not affect tactile sensitivity. This effect is apparently not due to painful or non-painful distraction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesia
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Touch / physiology
  • Vagina / physiopathology*