The Gender Gap in Pain

September 27, 2010

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by Pamela Katz Ressler, RN, BSN, HN-BC, MS-PREP student and PREP-AIRED blog moderator

Researchers and clinicians are coming to the realization that there is a gender difference in how pain is experienced between men and women.  While males and females seem to have comparable patterns of pain in childhood, at puberty certain types of pain become more common in females.  And females report a higher pain severity as compared to males after puberty.  Some research suggests that one explanation may be that estrogen protects against pain at high levels and enhances or amplifies pain at low levels, consistent with menstrual cycles.  However, gender based pain research is in its very early stages, one obstacle being that most basic pain research has been done only on male mice and rats.  Researchers are now beginning to understand that, in fact, males and females may process pain very differently due to hormonal and other factors.  Dr. Daniel Carr, founder of the Tufts University School of Medicine’s Pain Research, Education and Policy Program and an internally recognized expert in pain management recently stated in a Boston Globe article, “The conditions that cause pain affect men and women differently in terms of prevalence and severity.”  Carr noted that some drugs affect men and women differently, as well as the social and cultural dimension of gender which may modify treatment choices.  “Whatever pain therapy one selects should have some flexibility to it”, added Dr. Carr.

To read the Boston Globe article The Gender Gap: Learning Why Men and Women Experience Pain Differently, click here

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