Pain is the primary motivation for seeking medical care. Although pain may subside as inflammation resolves or an injury heals, it is increasingly evident that persistency of the pain state can occur with significant regularity. Chronic pain requires aggressive management to minimize its physiological consequences and diminish its impact on quality of life. Although opioids commonly are prescribed for intractable pain, concerns regarding reduced efficacy, as well as risks of tolerance and dependence, misuse, diversion, and overdose mortality rates limit their utility. Advances in development of nonopioid interventions hinge on our appreciation of underlying mechanisms of pain hypersensitivity. For instance, the contributory role of immunity and the associated presence of autoimmune syndromes has become of particular interest. Males and females exhibit fundamental differences in innate and adaptive immune responses, some of which are present throughout life, whereas others manifest with reproductive maturation. In general, the incidence of chronic pain conditions, particularly those with likely autoimmune covariates, is significantly higher in women. Accordingly, evidence is now accruing in support of neuroimmune interactions driving sex differences in the development and maintenance of pain hypersensitivity and chronicity. This review highlights known sexual dimorphisms of neuroimmune signaling in pain states modeled in rodents, which may yield potential high-value sex-specific targets to inform future analgesic drug discovery efforts.
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