Salivary cortisol and cold pain sensitivity in female twins

Background: There is a dearth of knowledge about the link between cortisol and pain sensitivity.

Purpose: We examined the association of salivary cortisol with indices of cold pain sensitivity in 198 female twins and explored the role of familial confounding.

Methods: Three-day saliva samples were collected for cortisol levels and a cold pressor test was used to collect pain ratings and time to threshold and tolerance. Linear regression modeling with generalized estimating equations examined the overall and within-pair associations.

Results: Lower diurnal variation of cortisol was associated with higher pain ratings at threshold (p = 0.02) and tolerance (p < 0.01). The relationship of diurnal variation with pain ratings at threshold and tolerance was minimally influenced by familial factors (i.e., genetics and common environment).

Conclusions: Understanding the genetic and non-genetic mechanisms underlying the link between HPA axis dysregulation and pain sensitivity may help to prevent chronic pain development and maintenance.

Godfrey KM, Strachan E, Dansie E, Crofford LJ, Buchwald D, Goldberg J, Poeschla B, Succop A, Noonan C, Afari N. Salivary cortisol and cold pain sensitivity in female twins. Ann Behav Med. 2014 Apr;47(2):180-8. PMC3926904.