Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common cause of pain in people aged >45 years, and the knee is the most commonly affected joint. There is a growing interest in understanding the biological factors that influence pain among older adults, but few studies have examined the relationship between β-endorphin and experimental pain sensitivity in older adults with knee OA pain. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between resting plasma levels of β-endorphin and experimental pain sensitivity. This study was a secondary analysis of data for 40 adults with knee OA pain in whom quantitative sensory testing was used to measure experimental sensitivity to heat- and mechanically induced pain. The mean age of the sample was 60 years (SD = 9 years), and approximately half were female (53%). Regression analyses indicated that β-endorphin level was negatively related to pressure pain threshold (β = −17.18, p =.02) and positively related to punctate mechanical pain (β = 17.13, p =.04), after controlling for age, gender, and OA severity. We did not find a significant relationship between β-endorphin and heat pain tolerance. The results suggest that higher circulating levels of β-endorphin at rest are associated with increased sensitivity to mechanical pain in older adults with knee OA. These findings add to the literature regarding biological factors associated with pain sensitivity in older adults with chronic pain. Additional studies are needed to identify mediators of the relationship between β-endorphin and pain sensitivity in OA and other musculoskeletal pain conditions.
- experimental pain sensitivity
- quantitative sensory testing
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Research and Theory