Sex and gender considerations in pain research

There is a well-recognized problem with much of the existing research base - that being for decades the participants (either animal or human) have skewed largely towards over-representation of males. The history of this is no doubt long and storied, and even today the fact that the majority of clinical trials will exclude pregnant or nursing women means that researchers, without even intending to, immediately exclude at least an important sub-population of women. As a result, there is a critical lack of evidence for supporting decisions around treating many health conditions in women, including pain. Accordingly, the Sex and Gender Equity in Research (SAGER) guidelines were published in 2016 that presented a strong call for not only including more females in basic and clinical research, but also for exploring results of that research separately for each sex.

At the PIRL we have a strong drive towards optimizing sex- and gender-based knowledge in pain research. Many of our trauma models, in particular those of the SYMBIOME study, integrate both biological sex-based variables (e.g. sex-at-birth, gonadal hormones) and socially constructed gender-based variables such as early life adversity and traditionally genderized traits and roles using a new Gender, Pain, and Expectations Scale (GPES). Members of our lab are going even further, casting a critical light on the very concepts of gender and how they have been traditionally defined, with a focus on how such conceptualizations may be either empowering or marginalizing certain segments of the population.