Oxytocin and the modulation of pain experience: Implications for chronic pain management


In an acute environment pain has potential protective benefits. However when pain becomes chronic this protective effect is lost and the pain becomes an encumbrance. Previously unheralded substances are being investigated in an attempt to alleviate the burden of living with chronic pain. Oxytocin, a neuropeptide hormone, is one prospective pharmacotherapeutic agent gaining popularity. Oxytocin has the potential to modulate the pain experience due to its ubiquitous involvement in central and peripheral psychological and physiological processes, and thus offers promise as a therapeutic agent. In this review, we discuss previous effective applications of oxytocin in pain-free clinical populations and its potential use in the modulation of pain experience. We also address the slowly growing body of literature investigating the administration of oxytocin in clinical and experimentally induced pain in order to investigate the potential mechanisms of its reported analgesic actions. We conclude that oxytocin offers a potential novel avenue for modulating the experience of pain, and that further research into this area is required to map its therapeutic benefit.

Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews

Full citation

Tracy, L.M., Georgiou-Karistianis, N., Gibson, S.J., & Giummarra, M.J. (2015). Oxytocin and the modulation of pain experience: Implications for chronic pain management. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 55, 53-67.
DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.04.013