There might finally be an answer as to why women suffer more pain than men from functional pain.
A new study identifies the cause is a neurohormone, prolactin, known largely for promoting lactation in expectant mothers in their final months of pregnancy and after childbirth.
Functional pain is associated with illnesses such as migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Frank Porreca, Ph.D., associate department head and a professor of Pharmacology, anesthesiology, cancer biology and neuroscience at the University of Arizona College of Medicine—Tucson, was a senior author on the study.
“Of all these female-prevalent pain disorders, migraines are among the most common, with about 35 million migraine patients in the United States, and three out of four of those are women. In addition, in fibromyalgia patients, as many as nine out of 10 are women; for irritable bowel syndrome, three out of four are women. When you add up all those women with pain—if you can normalize that—this would provide a huge and important impact on medical care.”
By identifying prolactin, the study suggests that new pain treatments targeting the neurohormone can be developed, which might dramatically reduce the pain women suffer due to such illnesses.