Bement, M. H., Rasiarmos, R. L., DiCapo, J. M., Griffith, E. E., & Hunter, S. K. (2006). Sex differences and reductions in pressure-induced pain following submaximal isometric contractions. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), Supplement abstract 2646.

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This study investigated the reliability of pain measurement and perception using a pressure-induced pain device, and examined the effects of submaximal isometric contractions on pressure pain perception in men and women. Pain perception was assessed using a pressure stimulus consisting of a 1 kg weight mounted on a plastic edge and placed on the forefinger for two minutes. Ss pressed a timing device when they first felt pain (pain threshold) and pain ratings were reported every 20 seconds using a 0-10 scale. At the first session, reliability of pain measurement using the pressure-induced pain device was assessed by measuring pain perception before and after a 30-minute rest period. At the last two sessions, pain perception was measured before and after the performance of a submaximal isometric contraction of the elbow flexor muscles 25 minutes after the first pain assessment. These last two sessions were randomized with subjects performing an isometric contraction at 25% of their maximal voluntary contraction force until task failure or for two minutes.

Pain thresholds and pain ratings were similar before and after 30 minutes of rest for men and women. However, women had lower pain thresholds and higher pain ratings than men before and after the 30-minute rest. Pain ratings decreased for both men and women following the submaximal fatiguing contraction at task failure but not after the 2-minute contraction. Pain threshold increased for both men and women following the submaximal fatiguing contraction at task failure and after 2 minutes.

Implication. Pain perception is more likely to decrease following a low-intensity submaximal contraction held to task failure than after two minutes, and women have higher pain ratings and lower pain thresholds than men at rest and after the performance of submaximal voluntary contractions.

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