Pain and Blood Pressure

Thomas G. Pickering, MD, DPhil

In This Article


We are living in the Decade of Pain Control and Research, as officially designated by Congress in January 2001. There was no new legislation or funding attached to this designation, unfortunately, but it may, at least, raise awareness of the issue. Pain is a phenomenon that we all experience to a greater or lesser extent, and the associations between pain and blood pressure are potentially of great interest but poorly understood. There are a number of issues here, some practical and others of more theoretical interest. It is well recognized that pain can raise blood pressure acutely, but it is not so well known that hypertension is associated with a diminished sensitivity to pain (hypalgesia). We know relatively little about the relationships between blood pressure and chronic pain like that in arthritis, and there is also the issue of whether high blood pressure can cause pain like headache. Headache has been discussed previously in this column,[1] but there are surprising new data on the subject.


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