Do women and men experience pain differently?

By Kelly Jirsa

Do women and men experience pain differently?
Could our gender determine how we experience pain?

Research shows that many factors including cultural heritage and gender influence how people talk and respond to pain.

Women are reported to suffer from more chronic pain and undiagnosed pain than men do. Chronic pain is described as pain persisting for more than 6 months. Along with pain associated with menstruation, women are reported to commonly experience more cases of irritable bowl, rheumatoid arthritis, jaw and teeth pain, headaches, bladder, pelvic and chronic regional pain syndrome.

Whereas men report infrequent headaches, nerve pain associated with shingles, spinal arthritis and migraines.

The way that each gender describes pain shows interesting differences, men are more likely to express their pain with anger or swear, focusing on the event. Whereas women tend to be more descriptive, using language to explain their sensory experience.

It is a commonly held belief that women have a stronger threshold for pain, research over the past 40 years however is showing a consistent trend that points towards women having a lower tolerance for pain that men.

But as Susan Evans, Gynecologist and Pain Medicine Physician at the University of Adelaide suggests, “This doesn’t mean women are weaker than men or their pain isn’t real, but they feel pain more intensely than men.”

There is a belief that the regular pain felt by women during menstruation predisposes women to tune into pain, meaning that women are more readily able to recognise pain than men are.

We are still learning about how pain is registered for women and men. In some recent studies researchers have found evidence to suggest that women and men may process pain through completely different biological pathways.

 

 

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