Ouch, That Hurts!January 24, 2012 No Comments
This phrase may be uttered more often by women than by men, and it’s not just because men are so tough and macho.
Although it’s possible for men to underplay the pain they feel in the name of preserving their masculinity, researchers suggest there’s something much deeper underlying the difference between men and women when it comes to pain. Women are just more sensitive to it, according to new research from Stanford University.
Despite the study’s results, which conclude that gender-specific treatments should be more thoroughly researched after these findings, we can’t take for granted that every individual has a different pain threshold. Some may have a stronger will to “grin and bear it” and others, perhaps, may simply have less nervy nerves.
Still, the facts are more painful to digest for women. They scored higher on back pain, joint and inflammatory pain, and had “significantly higher pain levels with diabetes, hypertension, ankle injuries and even sinus infections.” Overall, women’s “pain levels were about 20 percent higher than men’s.”
As tempted as I am to stick with the individualistic theory so as to not disturb a delicate balance where men and women are poked and prodded together, not separate, we can’t ignore that men and women have different bodies. Medical treatments should adhere to these gender-specific needs.
But why do women feel more pain?
Researchers say that it could come down to sex hormones. This evidence is particularly strong when they point out that menopausal women did not score as high on the pain meter due to a decreased presence of female sex hormones.
This answer still fails to give us any real insight into why women are more sensitive to pain. We can hypothesize away, saying women are just more honest when it comes to physical response and men under-report pain because they have been “socialized to be more stoic,” but the fact is that experts consider the gender bias to be a “clinically meaningful difference.”
So in order to help everyone, it may be better to admit a gender gap than imagine a level playing field where everyone’s pain is more or less the same.
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