Heightened cold pain and pressure pain sensitivity in young female adults with moderate-to-severe menstrual pain.
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This study investigated the association between menstrual pain severity and psychophysical measures of cold and pressure pain sensitivity. A cross-sectional design was used with young women (n = 432) from the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study. Menstrual pain severity and oral contraception use was obtained from questionnaires at 20 and 22-year follow-ups. A visual analog scale (VAS; range from 0 [none] to 10 [unbearable]) was used to measure menstrual pain severity at both 20 and 22 years over the 3-year period, with 3 groups created: (1) no pain or mild pain (VAS 0-3), (2) at least moderate pain at a minimum of 1 of the 2 time points (hereafter named "mixed)", and (3) severe pain (VAS 8-10). Cold pain sensitivity (dorsal wrist) and pressure pain sensitivity (lumbar spine, upper trapezius, dorsal wrist, and tibialis anterior) were assessed using standardised quantitative sensory testing protocols. Confounding variables included number of musculoskeletal pain sites, oral contraceptive use, smoking, physical activity, body mass index, psychological distress, and sleep. Severe menstrual pain and mixed menstrual pain were positively associated with heightened cold pain sensitivity (distant from menstrual pain referral site) and pressure pain sensitivity (local to menstrual pain referral site). These associations remained significant after adjusting for potential confounding variables including multisite musculoskeletal pain. Our findings suggest peripheral and central neurophysiological mechanisms contributing to heightened pain sensitivity in young women with moderate and severe menstrual pain. These data highlight the need for innovative management approaches to attenuate the negative impact of severe menstrual pain in young women.
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