Women and Pain: Taking Control and Finding Relief

If you have chronic pain, you’re not alone. An estimated 25.3 million adults in the United States report severe, daily pain, significantly more women than men, while 55 percent of U.S. adults report at least some pain in the past three months. Chronic pain is one of the most frequent reasons for physician visits and among the most common reasons for taking medication.

But there’s a gender gap when it comes to pain. Women have more frequent, longer lasting, and severe pain than men. For instance, one national survey found that while about 16 percent of white men and 8 percent of black men reported severe pain, those numbers jumped to about 22 percent for white women and 11 percent for black women, respectively.

Women are also more likely to develop painful diseases, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, vulvodynia, and temporomandibular disorders (TMJ) than men. They also report greater pain severity than men from certain conditions, such as cancer. And women simply pay attention to pain from physical conditions more than men. They recognize when something is wrong. Men, on the other hand, have a tendency to ignore pain when they should pay attention to it.

Women also differ in their response to pain medications. They tend to need higher amounts of pain medications immediately after surgery, while men tend to use more pain relievers later in the recovery period.4 Conversely, some medications (the partial kappa-opioid agonists, such as nalbuphine and pentazocine ), can provide greater pain relief in women than men, although opioids such as morphine and codeine can lead to more nausea and vomiting in women than men.

Topics: Chronic Pain | Trauma | Women

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