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Obstetrics & Gynecology:
doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3182a7e1f5
Original Research

Increased Pressure Pain Sensitivity in Women With Chronic Pelvic Pain

As-Sanie, Sawsan MD, MPH; Harris, Richard E. PhD; Harte, Steven E. PhD; Tu, Frank F. MD, MPH; Neshewat, Gina MPH; Clauw, Daniel J. MD

Cochrane Reviews
Clinical ObGyn
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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether women with chronic pelvic pain and variable degrees of endometriosis demonstrate altered pain sensitivity relative to pain-free healthy women in a control group and whether such differences are related to the presence or severity of endometriosis or comorbid pain syndromes.

METHODS: Four patient subgroups (endometriosis with chronic pelvic pain [n=42], endometriosis with dysmenorrhea [n=15], pain-free endometriosis [n=35], and chronic pelvic pain without endometriosis [n=22]) were each compared with 30 healthy women in a control group in this cross-sectional study. All patients completed validated questionnaires regarding pain symptoms and underwent screening for comorbid pain disorders. Pain sensitivity was assessed by applying discrete pressure stimuli to the thumbnail using a previously validated protocol.

RESULTS: While adjusting for age and education, pain thresholds were lower in all subgroups of women with pelvic pain relative to healthy women in the control group (all P values <.01). There was no difference in pain thresholds when comparing patients with endometriosis without pelvic pain with healthy women in the control group (mean difference 0.02 kg/m2, 95% confidence interval −0.43 to 0.47). The presence and severity of endometriosis and number of comorbid pain syndromes were not associated with a difference in pain thresholds.

CONCLUSION: Women with chronic pelvic pain demonstrate increased pain sensitivity at a nonpelvic site compared with healthy women in a control group, which is independent of the presence or severity of endometriosis or comorbid pain syndromes. These findings support the notion that central pain amplification may play a role in the development of pelvic pain and may explain why some women with pelvic pain do not respond to therapies aimed at eliminating endometriosis lesions.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: II

© 2013 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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