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Women and Men Face Off: Who Can Stand the Pain?

RED BANK, N.J., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Women and men have opposing views on many topics, and it turns out that they also have different takes on chronic pain. According to a new survey of women and men with chronic pain released today by the nonprofit HealthyWomen, the leading independent health information source for women, women are more than twice as likely as men to believe that women have a higher tolerance for pain (76% versus 32%, respectively)(1).In addition, almost twice as many women as men with chronic pain (59% of women vs. 36% of men)(1) feel they are considered to be "complainers" because of their chronic pain.

The survey is part of a new educational campaign - "She Said, He Said: Understanding Gender and Pain" - launched today by HealthyWomen (formerly the National Women's Health Resource Center). The initiative is supported through a sponsorship by Pfizer Inc. The campaign is designed to help women and men better understand and manage fibromyalgia, one of the most common chronic, widespread pain conditions(2) in the U.S., affecting more than 5 million Americans(3), mostly women(4). The campaign offers comprehensive resources including a series of articles, expert answers, first person perspectives, videos and tips on living with fibromyalgia, all available at

The survey of more than 1,000 people with chronic pain shows that more than half of women (53%)(1) wish family members would take their chronic pain more seriously, and 31 percent(1) feel the same way about their friends. Nearly half of women surveyed (46%)(1) believe that men are taken more seriously when they visit health care providers about chronic pain. In fact, scientific research shows that women generally experience more recurrent pain, more severe pain and longer lasting pain than men with similar conditions(5).

"Chronic pain is a serious health issue for both women and men and should be taken seriously no matter what the gender," said Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill, RN, executive director of HealthyWomen. "Our new campaign is aimed at teaching people with fibromyalgia how to understand and communicate about their pain, by learning from others who live with and effectively manage the condition as well as from medical experts in the field."

Some Similarities When Seeking Help

While perceptions of chronic pain differ, women and men do show similarities in their response to treating chronic pain. Both genders reported in the survey that they visited a health care professional to discuss their symptoms within three months of experiencing chronic pain (65% women, 63% men)(1). The top reasons for these visits also were similar: the ongoing presence of pain was the most significant reason cited (74% women, 70% men)(1), followed by intensity of the pain (58% women, 54% men)(1), and impact of the pain on work (38% women, 34% men)(1) and relationships (27% women, 20% men)(1).

Chronic pain such as fibromyalgia can have a debilitating effect on people's lives, impairing their ability to participate in everyday activities, including fun and work, and compromising personal relationships(6). Characterized by chronic widespread muscle pain and tenderness, fibromyalgia is usually accompanied by morning stiffness, poor sleep and fatigue(2).

About the Survey(1)

The survey was conducted online by Impulse Research among 1,021 men and women, age 18 and over in the United States, who self-identified as suffering from chronic pain (including 16% with fibromyalgia) and experienced persistent pain for a period of 3 months or more, to assess their perceptions and experiences with chronic pain. The research was conducted in August 2009. The maximum expected sample error rate for a simple random sample of this size is plus or minus three percentage points. The survey was commissioned on behalf of HealthyWomen and sponsored by Pfizer Inc.

About HealthyWomen

HealthyWomen (formerly the National Women's Health Resource Center) is the nation's leading independent health information source for women. For more than 20 years, women have been coming to us for answers to their most pressing and personal health care questions. Through its wide array of online and print publications, HealthyWomen provides health information that is original, objective, reviewed by medical experts and reflective of the advances in evidence-based health research.

For more information about fibromyalgia and materials from the educational campaign, please visit


(1) Impulse Research Corp. Chronic Pain Survey. August 19, 2009.

(2) Wolfe F, Ross K, Anderson J, Russell IJ, and Hebert L. The prevalence and characteristics of fibromyalgia in the general population. Arthritis Rheum. 1995;38:19-28.

(3) Burckhardt CS, Goldenberg D, Crofford L, et al. Guidelines for the management of fibromyalgia syndrome pain in adults and children. APS Clinical Practice Guidelines Series, No. 4. Glenview, IL: American Pain Society; 2005.

(4) NIAMS. Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia. Publication No. 04-5326. NIH; 2004. Available at: Accessed March 27, 2009.

(5) Hurley RW, Adams MC. Sex, Gender, and Pain: An Overview of a Complex Field. Anesth Analg. 2008;107:309-317.

(6) Henriksson KG. Fibromyalgia--from syndrome to disease. Overview of pathogenetic mechanisms. J Rehabil Med. 2003;89-94.

SOURCE HealthyWomen

SOURCE HealthyWomen
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