Why Do Women Suffer More Chronic Pain Than Men? The Answer is Multifaceted.
3 min. read
Baptist Health Miami Neuroscience Institute
Akshay Goyal, M.D., a pain management physician at Baptist Health Miami Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Goyal specializes in pain management and anesthesiology, with extensive experience in neuromodulation techniques for a variety of pain syndromes. Such techniques act directly on a patient’s nervous system.
“Anecdotally, I have seen more female patients that have difficult-to-treat conditions that may not be purely musculoskeletal in nature,” explains Dr. Goyal. “For instance, some data suggests that rheumatoid arthritis occurs in women three times as much as in men. Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men. Fibromyalgia is present nine times more in women than in men. Abdominal and pelvic pain is skewed toward women as well.”
There are many causes of chronic pain for both men and women. It may have stemmed from an illness or injury. Or there may be an ongoing cause of pain, such as arthritis or cancer. Many people suffer chronic pain without having a past injury or illness. Some of the more common causes of chronic pain include: Previous surgery, an old injury, infection, diabetes, nerve damage, back issues, arthritis, and migraines or other headaches.
Dr. Doshi writes: “These differences reflect a combination of genetic, biological/hormonal, psychological, social, and cultural factors that span different age groups, racial/ethnic categories, medical conditions, and socioeconomic classes, making the gender gap in pain patients a complex and widespread problem.”
Over the years, limited research had been done to better understand women’s chronic pain issues, and part of that is because of a historical tendency in medical research to ignore or downplay diseases that exclusively afflict women. In the past, that tendency has affected management of chronic pain in women.
“Research investigating disparities across a variety of populations has certainly gained traction in the recent years,” said Dr. Goyal. “Women are increasing their leadership presence in prominent medical positions, which will increase awareness and, in turn, improve the quality of care. “Technical advances in data collection and access to information will lead to more robust clinical data to help us in improving treatment of all demographics of chronic pain patients.”
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