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Different DHEA-S levels and response patterns in individuals with chronic neck pain, compared to a pain free group – a pilot study

Journal article
Authors Anna Grimby-Ekman
B. Ghafouri
Helena Sandén
B. Larsson
B. Gerdle
Published in Pain medicine
Volume 18
Issue 5
Pages 846-855
ISSN 1526-2375
Publication year 2017
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Institute of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Health Metrics
Pages 846-855
Language en
Keywords Chronic Pain, Neck, Dehydroepiandrosterone, Physical Exercise, Physical Activity
Subject categories Public health medicine research areas, Epidemiology


Objective. To test, in this pilot study, whether DHEA-S (Dehydroepiandrosterone, sulfated form) plasma levels are lower among persons with chronic neck pain, compared to control persons, and to investigate the DHEA-S response after a physical exercise. Subjects. Included were 12 persons with chronic neck pain and eight controls without present pain, all 18 and 65 years of age. Exclusion criteria for both groups were articular diseases or tendinosis, fibromyalgia, systemic inflammatory and neuromuscular diseases, pain conditions due to trauma, or severe psychiatric diseases. Design and methods. The participants arm-cycled on an ergometer for 30 minutes. Blood samples were taken before, 60 minutes, and 150 minutes after this standardized physical exercise. Results. The estimated plasma DHEA-S levels at baseline were 2.0 µmol/L (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.00; 4.01) in the pain group and 4.1 µmol/L (95% CI2.0; 8.6) in the control group, adjusted for sex, age, body mass index (BMI), and Shirom–Melamed Burnout Questionnaire (SMBQ), with a ratio of 0.48 (P = 0.094). The total DHEA-S (AUCG) in the pain group were 183 min*µmol/L lower than in the control group (P = 0.068). For the response to the exercise (AUCI), the difference between the pain group and the control group was 148 min*µmol/L (P = 0.011). Conclusions. In this pilot study, the plasma DHEA-S levels appeared to be lower among the persons with chronic neck pain, compared with the control group. It was indicated that DHEA-S decreased during the physical exercise in the control group, and either increased or was unaffected in the chronic pain group.

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