Naturally occurring hormone alters perception of pain

Lincoln Tracy – Monash University

Women with persistent pain displayed increased pain sensitivity following oxytocin administration, Melbourne researchers have found.

The trial, run by Monash University, was the first to look at the effects of oxytocin – a hormone produced by the human body – on the perception of acute pain in people with persistent pain.

Following the administration of oxytocin using a nasal spray, women with persistent pain reported they perceived the acute pain at a greater intensity compared to placebo. However, oxytocin did not have the same effect on acute pain in men with persistent pain, and in people who were pain-free.

“Although being most famously known for its involvement in childbirth, oxytocin is involved in a range of other processes in both the brain and wider body,” says Dr Lincoln Tracy, a researcher from Monash University.

“These initial findings suggest that oxytocin may interact with other endogenous systems to modulate the way we perceive and react to pain. The effects of oxytocin on pain may be different in different people”.

More than three million Australians live with persistent pain. Persistent pain has a huge negative impact on quality of life, and costs the Australian economy tens of billions of dollars each year.

Image: Dr Lincoln Tracy. Credit: Fresh Science Victoria

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