Hey, how’s your pain tolerance today? We ask because, and you’ve probably noticed this, your sensitivity to pain changes throughout your menstrual cycle. There’ll be days when just being makes your scalp hurt. And there’ll be other days when you can’t remember how you got that huge bruise on your leg. And that’s all down to the relationship between hormones and pain.
Hormones and pain: Higher Estrogen
Now, no one is really sure how this all works. But as far as anyone can tell, Estrogen is somehow linked with pain sensitivity. Which means your Estrogen levels can have an effect on how much pain you feel at any given week in the month.
For instance, when levels are higher, as during the later Follicular phase, or first half of your cycle, and around Ovulation, your pain tolerance can increase. Higher Estrogen can also decrease inflammation in your body, dropping overall pain levels.
And that’s great news for your workouts, as it can also improve muscle mass and strength, as well as decrease recovery time.
How does low Estrogen increase pain sensitivity?
When levels are lower, however, as they are briefly after Ovulation, towards the end of the Luteal phase, or the second half of our cycle, and during your period, your sensitivity to pain increases. Yup, you’re actually more likely to experience higher levels of pain. And yes, that does help explain PMS and painful bleeding. To some extent anyway.
But here’s the thing. If you’re already living with painful joints or muscles, headaches, or other chronic pain, lower Estrogen levels can make those symptoms worse. It can also mean you’re more prone to muscle injury during exercise, and could lead to increased recovery time following an injury. Fun, right?
That being said, a lot of the evidence relating to pain and its relationship with your Menstrual cycle is inconsistent.
As with all things hormonal, their effects on individuals vary widely, so we’ve no way to say for sure what definite effects Estrogen will have on your pain tolerance. The way we experience pain is fairly complicated at the best of times, and researchers have yet to nail down exactly how our reproductive hormones affect pain perception and regulation.
How does pain sensitivity appear during my cycle?
Exactly how low Estrogen and increased pain sensitivity manifests is likely to be different for everyone. But it can include:
- Sore or sensitive skin, anywhere from your scalp to your toes
- Eczema or psoriasis flare-ups
- Increased severity and frequency of reactions to skin allergens
- Sore joints
- Aching muscles
- Increased bunion or arthritis pain
Here’s one you might not be aware of: Higher Estrogen can also lead to gum pain and a higher rate of plaque build-up. Who knew? So taking care of your teeth is especially important in the last week of your cycle to ensure any damage is minimal.
Hormones and pain: How do I know it’s hormones?
Well, Estrogen can have a fantastic effect on your pain tolerance, or it might not. It could increase your ability to build muscle, or it might not. And lower levels could make your periods more painful. Or not. But Estrogen’s relationship with pain does offer a potential explanation for why breathing makes your scalp hurt for a few days every month.
What we’re saying is, it’s fairly difficult to nail down the cause of pain to one hormone. That said, anyone with a Menstrual cycle will know that hormones definitely play a role in how much pain we feel and when.
So, until medicine has nailed down the how and why any of this happens, keep tracking your symptoms with the Hormona app. At least that way, you’ll have some idea of when increased pain sensitivity is likely to strike, and plan accordingly.