Women are more affected than men by living with chronic pain
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did you know? 70% of chronic pain sufferers are female, yet 80% of pain studies are performed on male rats or human males.
Living with chronic pain can be debilitating, all-encompassing, and personality-defining, to say the least.
One british medical journal The paper indicates that 8 million people in the UK – 70% of whom are women – are living with chronic pain every day. It is a part of their identity for who they are and how they live their lives.
So, then, if 70% of those suffering from pain are women, are the 80% of the studies on chronic pain treatment and symptom relief—that is, over three quarters—conducted on men?
we have helped Dr. Abigail Hirschclinical psychologist and co-founder of lin health, a new chronic pain management platform, for her to take. Dr. Hirsch creates custom treatment programs for women who are diagnosed with chronic pain and believes she knows why women have been left out of research for so long. While you’re here, don’t miss our guide to endometriosis diagnosis, irregular periods, and exhausting symptoms.
Living With Chronic Pain: Your Guide
As our expert-led explainer on the many chronic stress symptoms, living with any chronic condition—whether it’s stress or pain—can feel debilitating.
As Hirsch points out, you all get injured from time to time and usually, the pain is gone when the injury heals—usually in the ballpark between three and six months. “Your bodies are actually quite remarkable in their ability to heal damaged tissue — but for many people, pain persists even after the body has healed. This is due to changes in brain pathways,” he shares. does.
how so? Well, your brain is great at learning—that’s its main job, she explains. “That said, sometimes the brain can get a little overzealous and learn to signal pain when it’s not supposed to,” she adds.
New medical diagnostic guidelines issued to the medical community in January 2022 specify this type of pain as chronic primary pain, he continues. “Some of the most common chronic primary pain presentations include fibromyalgia, low back pain, shoulder pain, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple arthritic presentations.”
Why is chronic pain more prevalent in women?
So, we know that chronic pain is common – but did you know that it is more common in women than men? So, the question: how, and why? “Why women experience more chronic pain than men is not clear, but we do know that women’s experience in treating chronic pain is very different from men’s,” explains Hirsch.
how so? First, women express pain differently than men. “According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, psychosocial factors such as gender roles, pain coping strategies, and mood can affect how pain is felt and communicated,” explains Dr. Hirsch.
Similarly, as mentioned above, 70% of people with chronic pain are women, but did you know that only 20% of all pain specialists are women? “This means that most women are conversing with male pain specialists and fielding questions of men who have a different understanding of the female experience,” share the experts.
Why has more research been done on men?
Good question – and one that female experts within the chronic pain industry have been asking for some time. “We have come a long way, but we still have a long road ahead,” emphasizes 2 Hirsch. Why? Because she believes gender bias is prevalent in all medical research and that women are treated clinically. —underrepresented in trials and in the medical community at large.
“It’s not necessarily intentional, it’s interesting that this is often the case in animal studies as well,” she explains. “While there are many findings that are universal, and not gender-dependent, without research that is balanced by gender, and other demographic or ethnic factors, we will miss places where there are differences – and these differences may end up being Extremely meaningful when research is filtered down to the level of clinical care.”
As you might have guessed, most of the research and medical instruction in 2022 is still based on the male body and the male experience. Why? Because women were not allowed to attend school until the late 1800s – Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from an American medical school in 1849, meaning that education was largely male-centred. It was only in 2018 that women began entering medical school in proportion to our representation in the general population. “Keep this in mind and it should come as no surprise that there are still incredible gaps and gender disparities in research,” emphasized Hirsch.
How can we make chronic pain more gender-neutral?
Strive for more inclusive research, take women’s perspectives into account, and focus on the types of pain that are specific to women, advises Dr. Hirsch.
“We also need to offer more female pain trainers to help women, which is why I make sure that we at Lynn Health actively support at least 50% of women in our therapy, coaching and are recruiting in clinical teams,” she emphasizes.
10 Tips for Living With Chronic Pain, According to Experts
1. It’s Not on Your Mind
No doctor should ever tell you that your pain is in your head, not real, or something that you have made up, shares Dr. Hirsch.
“Your pain experience is real — full stop,” she emphasizes.
2. It is not a symptom
Chronic primary pain is a chronic disease, not a symptom, it goes on and on. “It’s also highly treatable,” she explains.
Use this: Seek treatment that will support you through the ups and downs for the long haul as you keep the disorder under control.
3. A Diagnosis Can Explain It All
FYI, one diagnosis makes more sense than multiple diagnoses, shares expert.
“If you have had multiple pain or discomfort-related experiences – migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, musculoskeletal pain, burning or electrical sensations, fatigue, etc. – it is more likely that you have primary pain (a diagnosis) in your body than it is persistent. breaking up with new issues,” she explains.
Nice to know
4. Good News
did you know? Primary pain is actually a good news diagnosis. Why? Because pain relief techniques are extremely effective, experts share.
“In a recent study, there was 98% improvement and three out of four people with primary pain were able to achieve a pain-free or almost pain-free state. There is hope,” she adds.
5. It’s Not in Your Mind — But There’s a Good Chance It’s Not in Your Body either
Fun fact: Just because you have pain doesn’t mean you’ve had tissue damage.
“Indeed, the most persistent pain occurs with minimal or no tissue damage. Primary pain always has a multifactorial, bio-psycho-social aetiology,” she shares.
6. Consider Your Intervention Options
Recognize the myth that pain is best treated with pills, interventions or surgery, she stresses.
“Primary pain is treated with interventions that begin by addressing the psychological and social aspects of pain,” she highlights.
7. You Can Take The Pain Off
Sure, you can talk about not only taking away your pain, but you can do Learn the way out of pain.
how so? Well, primary pain is driven by a process called Centralized Sensitization. “This means that your central processor (aka your brain) learns to be more sensitive to a pain signal trigger known as a learned shift,” she explains.
What can be learned may also be unlearned.
8. Take care of yourself
Know this: Although it may not feel like it sometimes, you are more than just your pain. “All your needs deserve to be treated with care and love,” she shares.
Try this: Make a list of the things that bring you joy and commit to incorporating them into your life regularly (our self-care ideas might just help). “The research is clear that having these things in your life is an essential tool to keep pain away,” Hirsch tells WebMD.
9. Pay Attention to Yourself
When you think about managing your own chronic pain, communicating clearly with loved ones and friends may not be the first thing to do, but by making sure you’re expressing the difficulties you’re facing. Well, they’ll at least know what you’re going through.
“At the same time, when all of your conversations are about pain, chances are you’ll experience more pain by mistake. Focus more on the things you love and think about those things in your life.” are,” recommends Dr. Hirsch.
10. Remember it’s just the season
And finally, doctors recommend keeping an eye on the whole picture.
Use this: Think of tough times as the “weather” that changes from hour to hour, she advises. “When the pain is high, it can be easy to sink into a state of despair and feel like things will never change; like a rainy day where it seems the sun will never shine again,” she explains “Try to remember the ups and downs of your pain over time, reminding yourself that it’s just the season. If the pain is more now, it will definitely be less in the future.”