Women Hurt Longer and More than Men

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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When it comes to pain, women hurt longer and more intensely compared to men. Psychologist Jennifer Kelly, PhD, of the Atlanta Center for Behavioral Medicine says it's important for women to take an active role in pain management to avoid undue psychological distress and pain related disability.

The findings are important for clinicians who need to recognize there are gender differences when it comes to pain treatment. Women are more likely to suffer migraine headaches in response to hormonal flucuations and adolescent girls experience more pain than boys. Dr. Kelly also points out that women have different side effects to pain medication than do men.

Women Experience more Chronic Pain Conditions

Compared to men, women are more likely to develop chronic pain conditions that include fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Dr. Kelly who treats both men and women in her practice says "Pain perception does vary according to the menstrual cycle phases in women with chronic pain." She adds, "Genetic and hormonal differences may be the main reason for any differences, but it's becoming increasingly clear that social and psychological factors are also important." Kelly also says women focus on the emotional impact of pain and that can make things worse. Men focus on the physical sensations of pain.

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Coping with Pain Different for Women than Men

Pain treatment is the same for men and women. However, Dr. Kelly suggests there are several approaches that can help women especially when it comes to treatment of pain that lasts six months or more or chronic pain.

"If women can see the pain as something that can be managed and something that they can work with, then they can make more positive modifications in their life and become more functional."

Kelly also warns that depression treatment with medication should not be a substitute for psychological support. Eating healthy foods, exercise, biofeedback, cognitive coping strategies, relaxation techniques and psychological support would lead to better treatment for chronic pain, especially for women. Men and women experience pain differently around the globe and women experience more chronic pain conditions, shown in the International Association for the Study of Pain's 2007-2008 report on pain in women.

Source: American Psychological Association Press Release, August 12, 2010

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