Cocktail Chatter: Study Shows Women Report More Pain

The News: A new Stanford study finds that women report more intense pain than men with the same medical conditions.

The Background: The study used the medical records of more than 11,000 adults and found that men and women report their pain scores differently (for the same problems). Patients used a score of zero for no pain and 10 for worst pain imaginable. For some conditions like hernia and high blood pressure women reported an average of one full pain-point scale higher. A doctor involved in the study said the one-point difference is actually a big deal, “That’s when we say a medication might be working, when it can drop a pain score by a point.” The study results don’t necessarily mean men can handle their pain better than women. “All we can say is that women report more intense pain,” Stanford postdoctoral researcher David Ruau, a lead author of the study told the San Jose Mercury News. “And, it’s hard to tell whether men and women actually feel pain differently, or whether they merely rate their experiences differently.”

The Results: Study researchers say the results emphasize that health care workers should take the patient’s gender into account when deciding how much pain medication to give.

The Next Step: For the researchers, an important next step will be to find out whether men and women respond to pain medications differently. The results could be a big step forward for gender-specific, personalized medicine.

Other Pain Scale Differences

Sinus Pain: Men/4.46 Women/5.37

Muscle Pain: Men/4.67 Women/5.58

Back Pain: Men/5.53 Women/6.03

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