Pain felt by women is perceived by observers as less intense than pain felt by men, a new study reveals.
American scientists found that when male and female patients experienced the same amount of pain, observers viewed female patients’ pain as milder and would benefit more from psychotherapy than medication.
Both male and female observers were found guilty of this “gender bias,” which could lead to differences in treatments and women in pain not getting the medication they need.
According to the experts, the bias is due to an age-old stereotype that men are more ‘stoic’ than women – and so their pain is likely to be more severe.
Researchers at the University of Miami found that when male and female patients showed the same amount of pain, the observers considered the pain of female patients to be less intense and would benefit more from psychotherapy than medication compared to the pain of men, which is a significant amount. exposed the patient’s gender bias. lead to differences in treatments (stock image)
TYPES OF PAIN
Health professionals use different terms for different types of pain.
- Short-term pain is called acute pain. An example is a sprained ankle.
- Prolonged is called persistent or chronic pain. Back pain or arthritis are examples.
- Pain that comes and goes is called recurring or intermittent pain. A toothache can be one.
Pain signals use the spinal cord and specialized nerve fibers to travel to our brain.
Pain is never ‘only in the mind’ or ‘just in the body’ – it is a complex mix involving our entire being.
Source: British Pain Society
“If the stereotype is that women are more expressive than men, perhaps overly expressive, then the tendency will be to disregard women’s pain behavior,” said study author Elizabeth Losin, a professor of psychology at the University of Miami.
The downside to this stereotype is that men are seen as stoic, so when a man makes an intensely painful facial expression, you think, “Oh my, he must be dying!”
The result of this gender stereotype about pain expression is that each unit of increased pain expression by a man is believed to represent a greater increase in his pain experience than that same increase in pain expression by a woman.
“Women are not necessarily more expressive than men, so their pain expression should not be disregarded.”
The study, published in the Journal of Pain, consisted of two experiments with a total of 250 participants.
For the first experiment, 50 participants were asked to watch different videos of male and female patients suffering from real shoulder pain while doing a series of movement exercises with their injured and uninjured shoulders.
The patients’ facial expressions were also analyzed using the facial action coding system (FACS) – a comprehensive, anatomically based system for describing all visually perceptible facial movements.
The researchers used these FACS values in a formula to provide an objective score for the intensity of the patients’ painful facial expressions.
Participants were asked to measure the amount of pain they thought the patients in the videos were experiencing on a scale from zero, labeled “absolutely no pain,” to 100, labeled “worst pain possible.”
For the second experiment, researchers replicated the first part of this study, but with 200 participants.
This time, after watching the videos, the observers were asked to complete ‘the Gender Role Expectations of Pain Questionnaire’ (GREP).
GREP measures gender stereotypes about pain sensitivity, pain stamina and willingness to report pain.
Researchers admitted it is unclear whether their findings can be generalized to pain disorders other than shoulder pain (stock image)
Observers also shared how much medication and psychotherapy they would prescribe for each patient and which of these treatments they felt would be more effective in treating each patient.
The researchers analyzed the results of the participants’ responses to the videos compared to the patient’s self-reported pain level and the facial expression intensity data.
In general, it was assumed that female patients had less pain than the male patients who reported and displayed the same pain intensity.
With additional analyzes using participants’ responses to GREP, researchers were able to conclude that these perceptions were partly explained by these stereotypes.
Psychotherapy was also chosen as more effective than medication for a higher proportion of female patients compared to male patients.
Interestingly, the sex of the observers did not influence the pain estimate – meaning that both men and women interpreted women’s pain as less intense.
Previous research has shown that women are often prescribed less treatment than men and wait longer to receive it.
Research in 2016 found health care providers who believed that female patients with chronic pain were more likely to exaggerate their pain if they prescribed psychotherapy to female patients, but opioids to male patients.
Women had to wait longer for their prescribed treatments for acute abdominal pain than men, according to A. 2008 study
“There is a fairly broad literature showing demographic differences in pain reporting, the prevalence of clinical pain conditions, and subsequently also a demographic difference in pain treatments,” said Professor Losin.
“ I think a crucial piece of information that can be conveyed in medical curricula is that people, even those with medical training in other studies, have consistent demographic biases in how they assess the pain of male and female patients and that these biases influence treatment decisions.
“Crucially, our results show that these gender biases are not necessarily correct.”
According to Professor Losin, the study provides results that are more applicable to patients in clinical settings compared to previous studies that used posed actors in their stimuli videos.
“One of the benefits of using these videos of patients actually experiencing pain from an injury is that we have the patients’ ratings of their own pain,” she said.
“We had a basic truth to work with, which we can’t have if it’s incentive with an actor pretending to be in pain.”
Researchers admitted that it is unclear whether their findings can be generalized to pain disorders other than shoulder pain.
Another limitation of the study is that hardly any of the observers had any medical training or health care work experience – suggesting that medical professionals in the field can more accurately perceive pain levels in men and women.
Experts show that men are more sensitive to pain than women, especially if they are repeatedly injured
According to a 2019 study, men remember previous painful experiences with more clarity than women and therefore become more stressed by later pain in the same location (stock image)
Men are more sensitive to pain than women, a 2019 study in Current Biology suggests.
The study authors, from McGill University and University of Toronto Mississauga, found that men clearly remembered previous painful experiences.
As a result, they were stressed and hypersensitive to later pain when they returned to the location where it had previously been experienced.
Women did not seem to be stressed by their past experiences with pain.
Scientists increasingly believe that one of the drivers of chronic pain – the main health problem in both prevalence and burden – appears to be the memory of past pain.
Research was done on mice and then humans to confirm the findings, and scientists said it could lead to a breakthrough in the treatment of chronic pain.
“We embarked on an experiment to look at pain hypersensitivity in mice and found these surprising differences in stress levels between male and female mice,” said study author Jeffrey Mogil, a professor of pain studies at McGill University.
So we decided to extend the experiment to humans to see if the results would be comparable.
“We were amazed to see that there seemed to be the same differences between men and women as there were in mice.”
Read more: Scientists prove that men are more sensitive to pain than women