An estimated 25.3 million Americans experience chronic, severe pain every day. Chronic pain is a common problem in the United States. Within these millions of individuals, a disproportionate number of women are present. Not only are women more likely to experience chronic pain, but their pain is also more persistent, severe, and frequent than that of males.
Research on gender and pain has been a topic of significant scientific and clinical interest for more than two decades. It has been known for quite some time that women experience pain differently than men, both in terms of intensity and, possibly, mode. The gendered nature of pain is perplexing; it appears that women and men have biological responses that encode the amount of pain we experience, the types of things that can dull that pain, and our susceptibility to pain-related diseases.
Chronic pain, which is defined as pain lasting six months or longer without relief from treatment (whether pharmacologic therapy, physical therapy, or psychological counseling), can be associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine headache, and rheumatoid arthritis, all of those are, interestingly, more prevalent in women.
Numerous studies have examined the function hormones play in these various diseases. Rheumatoid arthritis is more prevalent in women, suggesting that estrogen plays a significant role. And it is well known that estrogen plays a role in numerous migraine cases. The occurrence of painful conditions during male adolescence increases slowly or remains stable, whereas the occurrence of painful conditions during female adolescence increases dramatically.
Women and Chronic Pain
One of the major causes why women experience chronic pain at a higher rate than males is, they are more likely to be affected by pain-causing diseases. Women are more susceptible to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, temporomandibular disorders, vulvodynia, and interstitial cystitis, for instance. Even in more common diseases like cancer, women typically experience more intense pain than males.
Why do more women suffer from chronic pain?
Before puberty, there is no difference in chronic discomfort between men and women. This is due to the hormonal fluctuations that women experience after puberty resulting in increased instances of discomfort. After puberty, women are up to six times more likely to experience discomfort. They are more likely to experience migraines, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome.
In terms of hormones, women with low estrogen levels and high progesterone levels experience more pain. This makes logic, given that estrogen levels peak during pregnancy, alleviating some of the pain. Even studies have shown that a number of painful conditions improve during pregnancy.
How it affects the daily lives of women:
Fibromyalgia is a classic central sensitivity syndrome. It is diagnosed ten times more frequently in women than in males. Patients may experience a great deal of musculoskeletal pain, sensitivity to pressure in various parts of the body, extreme fatigue, sleeping/cognitive difficulties, and other prevalent disorders. There are numerous conditions that mimic fibromyalgia, which adds to the controversy. Because there is no clinical test for fibromyalgia, the physician must rule out all other possible causes of the symptoms in order to diagnose the condition. It is extremely difficult to diagnose an invisible disease. No lab testing or scans can be performed; a physician must rely solely on the patient’s description.
It is an undeniable fact that women are more susceptible to chronic pain disorders than males.
- Certain chronic pain syndromes, such as endometriosis and vulvodynia, impact women exclusively.
- Numerous others, such as migraines, carpal tunnel syndrome, and temporomandibular joint disorders, are more prevalent in women than in males.
- Chronic regional pain syndrome is three times more prevalent in women than in males.
- The classic lupus rash occurs ten times more frequently in women, and it causes body-wide pain and fatigue.
- Rheumatoid arthritis affects women three to four times more frequently than males.
- Multiple sclerosis occurs in women four times more frequently than in males.
- Pregnancy and the postpartum period are not the only instances where chronic pain disorders are prevalent. In addition, certain female hormones can increase the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome and other painful conditions.
Do Experiences Influence Chronic Pain?
Trauma, maltreatment, tension, and the current emotional state all contribute to chronic pain. A study of 380 women found that those with a history of trauma or maltreatment were more likely to suffer from painful genital and urinary conditions. The researchers explained that these women remain in “alert mode;” they are constantly aware of internal and external stressors.
How to Deal with Pain?
Pain management can be problematic. It necessitates an interdisciplinary approach and trial, and error is a common method for determining what works.
Cognitive behavior therapy is also something that should be attempted. According to research, negative thoughts about one’s discomfort can make it worse, and this therapy steers individuals away from negative thoughts.
The objective of these corrective measures is twofold. The first is to reduce the pain to a manageable level, and the second is to discover ways to cope with the pain so that you can lead a productive and fulfilling life. It is difficult and concerning for a woman to be diagnosed with a chronic pain condition and to be told that she will experience pain for an extended period of time that is unlikely to abate anytime soon. Be your own doctor and record your symptoms daily. Maintain a strict diet and, if possible, consult a dietitian. Appoint a physiotherapist (or a family member) as your exercise partner. Each day, chronic pain will drive you further from a healthy lifestyle. Take care of your mental health. Meditate occasionally. If you have a poor night of slumber, your pain will worsen the following day. Everyone reacts differently to various approaches, so you must find the one that works best for you.