Which gender better handles pain across the board?
A recent study published in the January 16 online edition of The Journal of Pain shed some interesting light on this frequently disputed topic. A Stanford study lead by Atul J. Butte revealed that women report more pain than men on a pain rating scale.
In almost every category of health ailments analyzed, whether it was back and neck pain, digestive disorders, or sinus infections to name a few, women reported more pain than men.
The results of this study confirm that gender differences related to pain are not limited to specific conditions more prone to one gender than another; women report more pain than men even for ailments that are gender neutral like a sinus infection).
Most previous studies investigating gender differences and pain highlight research on the prevalence of pain whereas this study focused on gender differences in the reported intensity of pain.
Researchers data mined (a process of analyzing large quantities of data to look for the emergence of interesting patterns) electronic medical records not initially gathered for research and found the clear gender gap in reported pain that emerged.
The process involved using the records from the Stanford Medical Center that had asked patients to rate their pain on a scale from 0 – 10 with 10 being the absolute most painful threshold imaginable. Thousands of electronic patient records with more than 160,000 pain scores from 72,000 patients and 250 diagnoses were reduced to 47 of the most common ailments and 11,000 patients’ records for the results: women reported in their responses higher pain scores than men in 39 of the 47 diagnostic categories evaluated.
On average, women reported their levels of pain as 20 percent more intense than what men with the same medical diagnoses reported.
The study does not indicate specific reasons why women and men report pain differently.
Do women actually hurt more than men? Are men less likely to report pain? Are there biological, social, cultural or psychological reasons as to why women and men report pain differently? Are the pain charts simply highly subjective?
While the study does not actually attempt to definitively answer if women really do feel more pain than men, one stated major benefit of the study is that it shows the value of EMR (electronic medical records) data mining for research purposes. None of these data were initially collected for research but the study shows we can use it in that capacity, “ said Atul Butte, MD, PhD, the study’s senior author.
Furthermore, research findings from this study help health care professionals understand that there is actually a sex difference in terms of pain. Those numbers from 0 – 10 on a pain chart are, in fact, used as a threshold as to when to begin pain medicine for a patient.
In order to know if a patient is being treated with enough pain medicine it is important to have those numbers as an index of pain. Realizing that women report feeling pain more intensely for the same medical diagnoses aids in the understanding of when to begin the right treatment for pain.
These research results need further studying to identify the main reasons for the difference between men and women in reported pain levels. Yet for the spirited discussion about which gender better handles pain, the findings of this study offer another starting point.
If you are expereincing pain and need to speak to a doctor, contact a general physician near you.
The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.