Gender differences in temporal summation of mechanically evoked pain

Eleni Sarlani, Joel D. Greenspan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Several studies indicate that females are more sensitive to experimentally induced pain than males. Moreover, it was recently shown that temporal summation of heat pain is greater in females than males, suggesting that central processing of nociceptive input may be upregulated in women. Temporal summation of pain has been examined principally using thermal or electrical stimuli. The purpose of this study was to investigate the temporal summation to noxious mechanical stimulation, and examine gender differences in temporal summation of mechanically evoked pain. A sharp probe was used to apply brief mechanical stimuli on the fingers of ten healthy females and ten healthy males. Trains of ten repetitive stimuli were applied at an intensity of 1.2-1.3× the individual subject's pain threshold, at interstimulus intervals (ISIs) ranging from 1 to 6s. The same or different skin sites were stimulated in any single train of stimuli. The pain ratings for the fifth as well as the tenth stimulus were significantly higher than those for the first stimulus. Also, the pain responses for the tenth stimulus were higher than those for the fifth. There was no overall gender difference in pain ratings, however, there was a significant trial #×gender interaction. Males and females provided comparable magnitude estimates for the first stimulus in the train, but females provided higher pain ratings than males for the fifth as well as the tenth stimulus. Temporal summation occurred across all ISIs, but shorter ISIs (1-3s) elicited significantly greater temporal summation than longer ISIs (4-6s). Finally, although higher pain ratings were obtained when the ten consecutive stimuli were applied on the same versus different skin areas, the degree of temporal summation was not significantly different. These findings indicate that temporal summation of mechanically evoked pain is higher in females compared to males, is stimulation frequency dependent and is centrally mediated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-169
Number of pages7
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Gender differences
  • Mechanical nociception
  • Pain
  • Temporal summation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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