It has been suggested that increased pain sensitivity and disruption of endogenous pain inhibitory processes may account, at least in part, for the greater prevalence and severity of chronic pain in women compared to men. However, previous studies addressing this topic have produced mixed findings. This study examined sex differences in pain sensitivity and inhibition using quantitative sensory testing (QST), while also considering the influence of other important factors such as depressive symptoms and sleep quality. Healthy men (n=24) and women (n=24) each completed a QST battery. This battery included an ischemic pain task (IPT) that used a submaximal effort tourniquet procedure as well as a conditioned pain modulation (CPM) procedure for the assessment of endogenous pain inhibition. Prior to QST, participants completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Analyses revealed significant sex differences for the ischemic pain task and the conditioned pain modulation procedure, such that women tolerated the ischemic pain for a shorter amount of time and demonstrated less pain inhibition compared with men. This remained true even when accounting for sex differences in depressive symptoms and sleep quality. The results of this study suggest that women may be more pain sensitive and possess less-efficient endogenous pain inhibitory capacity compared with men. Whether interventions that decrease pain sensitivity and enhance pain inhibition in women ultimately improve their clinical pain outcomes is an area of research that deserves additional attention in the future.
sex differences; pain sensitivity; inhibition; depressive symptoms; sleep
The treatment of chronic pain arising from deep tissues is currently inadequate and there is need for new pharmacological agents to provide analgesia. The endogenous paracrine hormone/neurotransmitter oxytocin is intimately involved in the modulation of multiple physiological and psychological functions. Recent experiments have given clear evidence for a role of oxytocin in the modulation of nociception. The present article reviews the existent human and basic science data related to the direct and indirect effects of oxytocin on pain. Due to its analgesic, anxiolytic, antidepressant and other central nervous system effects, there is strong evidence that oxytocin and other drugs acting through the oxytocin receptor could act as multifunctional analgesics with unique therapeutic value.
oxytocin; visceral pain; musculoskeletal pain; nociception; analgesics; anxiolytics
Abdominal electromyographic (EMG) responses to noxious intensities of urinary bladder distention (UBD) are significantly enhanced 24 hrs following zymosan-induced bladder inflammation in adult female rats. This inflammation-induced hypersensitivity is concomitantly inhibited by endogenous opioids because intraperitoneal (i.p.) naloxone administration before testing significantly increases EMG response magnitude to UBD. This inhibitory mechanism is not tonically active since naloxone does not alter EMG response magnitude to UBD in rats without inflammation. At the dose tested, naloxone does not affect bladder compliance in rats with or without inflammation. The effects of i.p. naloxone likely result from blockade of a spinal mechanism, because intrathecal (i.t.) naloxone also significantly enhances EMG responses to UBD in rats with inflammation. Rats exposed to bladder inflammation from P90-P92 prior to re-inflammation at P120 show similar hypersensitivity and concomitant opioid inhibition, with response magnitudes being no different from that produced by inflammation at P120 alone. In contrast, rats exposed to bladder inflammation from P14-P16 prior to re-inflammation at P120 show markedly enhanced hypersensitivity and no evidence of concomitant opioid inhibition. These data indicate that bladder inflammation in adult rats induces bladder hypersensitivity that is inhibited by an endogenous opioidergic mechanism. This mechanism can be disrupted by neonatal bladder inflammation.
bladder; opioids; inflammation; neonatal; visceromotor reflex; pain
Background and Objectives
Oxytocin (OXY) is a neuropeptide that has recently been recognized as an important component of descending analgesic systems. The present study sought to determine if OXY produces antinociception to noxious visceral stimulation.
Urethane-anesthetized female rats had intrathecal catheters placed acutely, and the effect of intrathecal OXY on visceromotor reflexes (VMRs; abdominal muscular contractions quantified using electromyograms) to urinary bladder distension (UBD; 10-60 mm Hg, 20 s; transurethral intravesical catheter) was determined. The effect of OXY applied to the surface of exposed spinal cord was determined in lumbosacral dorsal horn neurons excited by UBD using extracellular recordings.
OXY doses of 0.15 μg or 1.5 μg inhibited VMRs to UBD by 37 ± 8% and 68 ± 10%, respectively. Peak inhibition occurred within 30 minutes and was sustained for at least 60 minutes. The effect of OXY was both reversed and prevented by the intrathecal administration of an OXY receptor antagonist. Application of 0.5 mM OXY to the dorsum of the spinal cord inhibited UBD-evoked action potentials by 76 ± 12%. Consistent with the VMR studies, peak inhibition occurred within 30 minutes and was sustained for greater than 60 minutes.
These results argue that intrathecal OXY produces an OXY receptor specific antinociception to noxious UBD, with part of this effect due to inhibition of spinal dorsal horn neurons. To our knowledge, these studies provide the first evidence that intrathecal OXY may be an effective pharmacological treatment for visceral pain.
This investigation examined the effect of footshock on responses of 283 spinal dorsal horn neurons (DHNs) to urinary bladder distension (UBD). Female rats were treated with seven daily sessions of footshock (chronic footshock, CFS), six accommodation sessions followed by one exposure to footshock (acute footshock, AFS), or handled similarly without receiving any footshock (no footshock, NFS). After the final footshock or NFS session, rats were anesthetized, a laminectomy performed and extracellular single-unit recordings of L6-S1 DHNs obtained in intact or spinalized preparations. Neurons were classified as Type I - inhibited by heterotopic noxious conditioning stimuli (HNCS) or as Type II - not inhibited by HNCS - and characterized for spontaneous activity and for neuronal discharges evoked by graded UBD. A differential effect of footshock-induced stress was noted on neuronal subgroups. In intact preparations, Type I neurons were less responsive to UBD after either chronic or acute stress, while Type II neurons demonstrated significantly augmented responses to UBD. This enhanced neuronal responsiveness to UBD was present in spinalized preparations following exposure to CFS but not AFS. Type I neurons were still less responsive to stress in spinalized preparations following CFS and AFS. This study provides further evidence that (1) at least two populations of spinal neurons exist which encode for visceral stimuli and are likely to have distinct roles in visceral nociception, and that (2) the chronic stress-induced enhancement of DHN responses to UBD involves changes in at the spinal level while the acute stress effects are dependent on a supraspinal substrate.
visceral; urinary bladder; cystitis; stress; spinal
The purpose of the present study was to determine how acute adult and/or prior early-in life (EIL; P14-P16) exposure to bladder inflammation affects bladder content of calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) and substance P (SP). Estrous cycle influences were also studied in the adult-treatment conditions.
In Experiment 1, intravesical zymosan or isoflurane anesthesia alone was administered to adult female rats. Bladders and serum were collected 24 hours later during each phase of the estrous cycle. In Experiment 2, zymosan or anesthesia alone was administered EIL and as adults, with bladder tissue collection 24 h later.
In general, Experiment 1 showed that bladder content of both CGRP and SP was increased by inflammation. This effect was significant when data were collapsed across all phases of the estrous cycle, but was only significant during proestrus when individual comparisons were made during each phase of estrous. Also, adult bladder inflammation significantly reduced estradiol levels. In Experiment 2, bladder content of CGRP and SP was significantly increased in rats receiving EIL and/or adult inflammation. Bladder weights were also significantly increased by inflammation.
These data indicate that bladder CGRP and SP are maximally increased during the proestrus phase of the estrous cycle in inflamed adult female rats. EIL exposure to bladder inflammation alone can also produce an increase in CGRP and SP lasting into adulthood. Therefore, EIL experience with bladder inflammation may predispose an organism to experience a painful bladder disorder as an adult by increasing primary afferent content of CGRP and/or SP.
We assessed the effect of ovariectomy and estrogen replacement on nociceptive responses to bladder distention in a rat model.
Materials and Methods
Female Sprague-Dawley rats (Harlan™) underwent ovariectomy or sham surgery. Visceromotor responses (abdominal contractions) to bladder distention were determined 3 to 4 weeks later under isoflurane anesthesia. In rat subsets estrogen was chronically replaced with a subcutaneous estrogen pellet vs a placebo pellet or acutely replaced by subcutaneous injection 24 hours before testing. Effects of estrogen withdrawal were examined in another group of rats by implanting a pellet and explanting the pellet 24 hours before testing. Uterine weight was measured to assess the estrogen dose.
Visceromotor responses to bladder distention were significantly less vigorous in ovariectomized rats vs controls. Acute estrogen replacement increased visceromotor responses in these rats but chronic estrogen replacement did not. Sudden chronic estrogen withdrawal resulted in increased visceromotor responses. Uterine weight was consistent with the physiological estrogen dose.
Estrogen alone was not sufficient to produce increased nociceptive responses but an acute decrease in estrogen resulted in increased visceromotor responses. These data suggest that the pronociceptive effects of estrogen may be due to a mismatch between peripheral vs central and/or genomic vs nongenomic effects of the hormone, which occur during rapidly decreasing estrogen levels.
estrogens; ovary; pain; ovariectomy; rats; Sprague-Dawley
Neonatal bladder inflammation has been demonstrated to produce hypersensitivity to bladder re-inflammation as an adult. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of neonatal urinary bladder inflammation on adult bladder function and structure. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were treated on postnatal days 14-16 with intravesical zymosan or anesthesia alone. At 12-16 weeks of age, micturition frequency and cystometrograms were measured. Similarly treated rats had their bladders removed for measurement of plasma extravasation following intravesical mustard oil, for neuropeptide analysis (CGRP or SubP), or for detailed histological examination. Rats treated with zymosan as neonates exhibited increased micturition frequency, reduced micturition volume thresholds, greater extravasation of Evan's Blue following intravesical mustard oil administration, and greater total bladder content of CGRP and SubP. In contrast, there were no quantitative histological changes in the thickness, fibrosis or mast cells of bladder tissue due to neonatal zymosan treatments. Functional changes in urologic systems observed in adulthood, coupled with the increased neuropeptide content and neurogenic plasma extravasation in adult bladders, suggest that the neonatal bladder inflammation treatment enhanced the number, function and/or neurochemical content of primary afferent neurons. These data support the hypothesis that insults to the urologic system in infancy may contribute to the development of adult bladder hypersensitivity.
Inflammation of the bladder early in life in the rat has multiple sequelae including laboratory measures that suggest an alteration of the neurophysiological substrates related to the bladder. Some painful bladder syndromes in humans have similar characteristics and so may be due to similar mechanisms.
developmental; visceral nociception; hyperalgesia; interstitial cystitis
Anecdotal evidence suggests that chronic bladder pain improves while breastfeeding. The present study sought to identify potential mechanisms for such a phenomenon by investigating the effects of the lactogenic hormones prolactin (PL) and oxytocin (OXY) in a rat model of bladder nociception. Lactating rats were less sensitive to urinary bladder distension (UBD) than controls. In investigating potential antinociceptive and anxiolytic roles for these hormones, we found exposure to a footshock paradigm (STRESS groups) produced bladder hypersensitivity in saline-treated rats, manifested as significantly higher electromyographical (EMG) responses to UBD, compared to rats exposed to a non-footshock paradigm (SHAM groups). This hypersensitivity was attenuated by the intraperitoneal administration of OXY prior to footshock in the STRESS-OXY group. The administration of PL augmented EMG responses in the SHAM-PL group but had no effect on the responses of the STRESS-PL group. In the absence of behavioral pretreatment, OXY attenuated UBD-evoked responses while PL had no effect. Moreover, OXY-treated rats spent more time in the open arm of an elevated plus maze compared to saline-treated rats suggesting anxiolysis. These studies suggest the potential for systemic OXY, but not PL, as an analgesic and anxiolytic treatment for painful bladder disorders such as interstitial cystitis.
oxytocin; prolactin; nociception; pain; stress; anxiety; bladder
Stress-induced hyperalgesia (SIH), a common clinical observation associated with multiple painful diseases including functional urinary disorders, presently has no mechanistic explanation. Using a Footshock treatment, a classical stressor, to magnify physiological responses in a model of urinary bladder pain, we examined one potential group of mediators of SIH, the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF)-related neuropeptides. Exposure to a Footshock treatment produced bladder hypersensitivity in female Sprague Dawley rats, manifested as significantly more vigorous visceromotor responses (VMRs) to urinary bladder distension (UBD) compared to rats that were exposed to a Non-footshock treatment. This bladder hypersensitivity was significantly attenuated by blocking spinal CRF2 receptors but not CRF1 receptors. Furthermore, spinal administration of urocortin 2, a CRF2 receptor agonist, augmented UBD-evoked VMRs in a way similar to what was observed following exposure to Footshock, an effect significantly attenuated by pretreatment with spinal aSVG30, a CRF2 receptor antagonist. Surprisingly, neither spinal administration of CRF nor the CRF1 receptor antagonist, antalarmin, had an effect on bladder nociceptive responses. The results of the present study not only provide further support for a role of stress in the exacerbation of bladder pain, but also implicate spinal urocortins and their endogenous receptor, the CRF2 receptor, as potential mediators of this effect.
This study presents evidence that spinal urocortins and CRF2 receptors are involved in stress-induced hypersensitivity related to the urinary bladder. This provides a basis for investigating how urocortins mediate SIH, ultimately leading to more effective treatment options for patients suffering from painful bladder syndromes as well as stress-exacerbated chronic pain.
Urinary bladder; hypersensitivity; visceral; urocortin; corticotropin-releasing factor