Women Feel More Pain Than Men

Posted by: The Bristal

Dear Maryellen,

I’ve heard it said all my life that women tend to “feel” more than men. But does this also include pain? My 75-year-old mom complains about body pains all the time. Is this just age-related crankiness, or could she be somehow feeling more pain than my dad simply because she is a woman? Just curious. -Belinda, Merrick, NY

Dear Belinda,

We certainly don’t need high-profile scientific studies to draw connections between body aches and age. That correlation goes without saying. But interestingly enough, there has been some serious research conducted that suggests women don’t only feel things emotionally more than men, but they may also feel more physically. Particularly pain, and especially when older.

Here’s what the science says. Apparently, women with chronic ailments experience more intense pain than men, and researchers are using this information to more accurately prescribe pain medication for both men and women. Studying over 11,000 participants, investigators at the Stanford University School of Medicine determined that women consistently report significantly higher pain levels than do men from such illnesses as diabetes, hypertension, ankle injuries, back pain and other pain-generating conditions.

While no conclusive re-prescription strategies were suggested, and though no specific reasons for the pain discrepancy were cited, study authors advise that consideration must be given to biological factors — especially since the management of chronic pain remains such an ongoing topic of debate among long-term caregivers.

Bear in mind, Belinda, that men tend to downplay their levels of pain when asked — which could explain why your dad generally complains less about pain than your mom — but previous studies have also pointed to hormones playing a role in how the sexes experience pain differently. In either case, as always, I advise every reader to check with their physicians before making any changes in medication or care plans. This particular Stanford study was published in the Journal of Pain, if you want to share the information with your mom’s doctor.

Thanks for the great question, Belinda. There’s probably many folks out there wondering the same thing. Be well and continue writing in.

Regards,
Maryellen McKeon

Source: McKnight’s LTC News Online; January 2012

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