The effect of stress on pain sensitivity in healthy adults
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Stress can have influence on pain sensitivity, but the direction of its effects remains unclear. Previous research has reported both increased and decreased pain sensitivities under stress with different sensory tasks. The aim of the current study was to investigate the effect of stress on pain sensitivity using multiple psychological stressors in a relatively large sample of young men and women. Sixty-two participants were included, and pain thresholds, tolerance, and temporal summation were tested using thermal, mechanical, and dynamic tasks before and after stress. A condition of stress was induced by the Stroop task and a mental arithmetic task. On average, there were no significant differences between stress and no stress conditions. Although not significant, pressure thresholds and tolerance had a tendency to decrease under stress conditions, and thermal thresholds and tolerance had a tendency to increase under stress conditions. Temporal summation did not change regardless of condition. These findings suggest that individual differences in response to stress and type of task being completed may play a role in how stress affects pain sensitivity.