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Gender difference in Pain Experience - Women feel More Pain than men

At the University of Bath in England an interesting study has been conducted that shows that women feel pain more than // men. This is despite the popular notion that the opposite is true. Why this gender difference no one as yet knows. “Until fairly recently it was controversial to suggest that there were any differences between males and females in the perception and experience of pain, but that is no longer the case,” said Dr Ed Keogh a psychologist from the Pain Management Unit at the University of Bath. He further said: “Research is telling us that women experience a greater number of pain episodes across their lifespan than men, in more bodily areas and with greater frequency. Unfortunately all too often the differences between males and females are not considered in pain research or practice, and instead are either ignored or statistically averaged” These results are based on several studies into the pain response of volunteers exposed to a pain stimulus, such as a cold-water bath, as well as field studies in clinics and hospitals. “While most explanations concentrate on biological mechanisms, such as genetic and hormonal differences, it is becoming increasingly clear that social and psychological factors are also important,” said Dr Keogh. It was found that women tend to focus on the emotional aspects of pain they experience whereas men tend to focus on the sensory aspects, for example concentrating on the physical sensations they experience. Hence anxiety may affect men and women in different ways, and the strategies used to cope with pain may actually make their experience worse. The general conclusion drawn seems to indicate that there seem to be differences in how men and women think and feel about their pain.

Dr Keogh. Suggests: “Our research has shown that whilst the sensory-focused strategies used by men helped increase their pain threshold and tolerance of pain, it was unlikely to have any benefit for women” . He further said: “omen who concentrate on the emotional aspects of their pain may actually experience more pain as a result, possibly because the emotions associated with pain are negative.”

Researchers believe that it is the fear of anxiety-related sensations and an increased tendency to negatively interpret such sensations, both of which are more predominant in women than men that influences women’s experiences of pain. Researchers in the Pain Management Unit also looked at how men and women react to chest pain in 150 patients referred to the hospital

“Chest pain is associated with coronary heart disease, angina and heart attacks, so it is understandable that chest pain is a cause of great anxiety for patients and that anxiety has an important role in the experience of chest pain,” said Dr Keogh.

”This research is also consistent with studies that suggest that men and women experience chest pain in different ways and that, compared to men, women can sometimes report more intensive pain and nausea.”

Women have what is called ‘anxiety sensitivity’; this is the tendency to be fearful of anxiety-related sensations resulting in increased heart rate and seems to be important in the experience of pain sensations.

“Gender can be profitably examined as a potential predictor of pain experience, and in particular, pain following treatment, but it is too early to say exactly how gender-specific interventions can be tailored to address these potentially important differences,” said Dr Keogh.

“However, evidence is certainly converging to suggest that accounting for greater differences may increase the overall effectiveness of treatments.”

Source of Press release: http://www.bath.ac.uk/ews/releases
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