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How and Why Men and Women Experience Pain Differently

Research clearly shows that men and women can have very different experiences when it comes to health issues.

For instance, physicians have known for some time that men and women often describe different symptoms before/during a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, women may not have chest pain but are more likely than men to experience nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, and upper back pain. Recognizing this difference can help save your life.   

Per the research, it’s also been clear for decades that men and women have significant differences when it comes to chronic pain conditions. This can greatly influence the success of your treatment plan.

Teddrick Dunson, MD is a pain management specialist with a busy practice, Thrive Pain Management, in Irving, Texas. Well-known for his medical skill and passion for restoring pain-free function, Dr. Dunson shares how and why your gender may affect your experience with pain.

Women versus men and pain

Extensive international research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that women are much more likely than men to experience chronic pain.

This includes issues affecting the musculoskeletal system, such as:

Other chronic pain conditions that are much more prevalent in women than men include:

Women often report more severe pain than men with conditions such as migraine headaches and are more likely than men to experience symptoms such as nausea and vomiting along with their pain.

Men also typically grade acute (sudden) pain related to injury, surgical trauma, etc. as less intense than women when describing pain related to similar conditions.

Why the difference?

Several factors are thought to influence the way men and women experience pain, including societal norms that might direct male versus female expression and behavior. However, certain pain conditions are also traceable to the biological/physical differences between men and women.   

Hormonal changes related to menopause, for instance, play a significant role in your risk of developing osteoporosis. Much more common in women than men, osteoporosis increases the risk of developing back pain related to loss of bone density and compression fractures in the spine.

Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition that affects twice as many women as men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), may also be related to changes in hormone levels.

Interestingly, men and women apparently remember previous painful experiences differently. Per a study published by Current Biology in 2019, men developed more stress/anxiety and increased pain sensitivity than women when returning to a location where they previously experienced pain. Researchers also report that men appear to become less tolerant of pain than women as they age.

If you’re dealing with chronic pain, regardless of your gender, Dr. Dunson can help. Schedule a visit at Thrive Pain Management today. 

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