Document Type



Background: Pain is a common occurrence and persistent symptom, which has an adverse impact on individual well-being and quality of life among people living with HIV (PLHIV). Alteration in the activity of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis resulting in abnormal glucocorticoid levels had been proposed to play important roles in those associations. Purpose: This study aimed to investigate whether pain severity was associated with hair glucocorticoid levels, a novel method of measuring long-term glucocorticoid exposure, among a large cohort of Chinese PLHIV. Methods: A measure of pain severity and hair samples were collected from 431 adults PLHIV in Guangxi, China. Glucocorticoid (cortisol and cortisone) in hair were quantified by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. The general linear model was used to test the associations of pain severity with hair glucocorticoid levels after adjusting for potential confounding factors. Results: Of the 431 PLHIV, 273 reported none pain, 87 reported mild pain, and 71 reported moderate-severe pain. Hair cortisone, but not hair cortisol, was found to differ significantly among the three pain severity groups (F=3.90, p=0.021). PLHIV reported moderate-severe pain had higher hair cortisone than those reported mild (p=0.070) or none pain (p=0.014), with no differences between the latter two pain severity groups. Conclusion: Greater pain severity is associated with higher hair cortisone levels among Chinese PLHIV. In order to reduce the long-term glucocorticoid levels, interventions managing pain should be considered for PLHIV with moderate-severe pain.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Zhang, Q., Li, X., Qiao, S., Liu, S., Shen, Z., & Zhou, Y. (2021). Greater Pain Severity is Associated with Higher Glucocorticoid Levels in Hair Among a Cohort of People Living with HIV. Journal Of Pain Research, 2021, 645-652.


© 2021 Zhang et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. The full terms of the License are available at The license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.