The effect of age and gender on pressure pain thresholds and suprathreshold stimuli

Laura Petrini, Susan Tomczak Matthiesen, Lars Arendt-Nielsen

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The study investigates the impact of age and gender on (1) experimental pressure pain detection thresholds (PPDT) and pressure pain tolerance thresholds (PPTolT) and (2) participants’self-reports of pain intensity and unpleasantness at suprathreshold and subthreshold levels. Methods:
twenty young (20–34, mean age = 24.6 ± 3.5 years, ten female) and twenty elderly (65–88, mean age = 73.7 ± 6.6 years, ten female) healthy volunteers were compared. Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE 28–30) assessed intact cognitive functioning. Pain thresholds were assessed together with the sensory intensity ratings to 1.3 × PPDT (pain) and 0.2 × PPDT (no pain). Results: PPDT and PPTolT significantly decreased with age and were lower in young females as compared with young males.
No gender differences were observed in the elderly group. PPDT decreased significantly with age in males but not in females. Conversely, the intensity and unpleasantness of the pain stimulus were significantly
rated lower in the elderly as compared with the young. No gender differences were observed in the report of intensity and unpleasantness of the stimulations. Discussion: a mismatch in pain sensitivity, tolerance, and pain self-reports was observed. Findings suggest that pain experiences in the elderly differ from the
experiences in the young on multiple dimensions: sensory, affective, and cognitive. Findings may also indicate that the elderly appraise pain experiences using different psychological strategies.
Udgave nummer5
Sider (fra-til)587-596
StatusUdgivet - 2015


  • experimental pain
  • elderly
  • gender
  • pain perception
  • cognitive functioning