I am not a happy pain sufferer. Luckily, I have never been in severe pain over a long period of time. Given the statistics though, we women might be in for this experience at some point in our lives. And I am not just talking about periods.
FUNNY PAIN STORY
When I was giving birth they told me to ask for an epidural when I got to a 10 on the pain scale. I cried out, “Compared to WHAT?!” I screeched to the nurse. “Give me a control measure!”
The nurse said, “compared to having your hand sawed off on a tree stump.” Hilariously, I was so horrified by that example that the doctor kept asking me if I was ready. I was writhing and still said I wasn’t. The hospital staff finally concluded that the baby was almost coming and that I needed to get the epidural. Apparently, I was never going to get to a 10 because all I could think of was, “compared to having my hand sawed off, this is nothing. ” I guess how one measures pain greatly varies. And luckily, this was a temporary condition. I can’t imaging how stressful and difficult living with chronic pain must be.
Back to the research…
New research has shown some intriguing trends about women and pain.
This article in the New York Times by L. Edwards gives fascinating facts about women and pain.
Issue #1 Women’s Pain Tends To Get Undermedicated
Edwards explained that when women complain about pain, the doctors tend to ignore and under medicate women’s pain symptoms.
Not good. Sh*&! I am already scared of getting old. Now, I have to fear not getting enough pain meds? I gotta’ advocate for myself there too? Oy! And pain doesn’t happen just when you are old either.
#2 Women Are More Likely To Experience Pain Than Men
Ms. Edwards writes that
- “A review published in the Journal of Pain in 2009 found that women faced a substantially greater risk of developing pain conditions. They are twice as likely to have multiple sclerosis, two to three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and four times more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome than men.”
#3 Women In Pain Are More Likely To Be Dismissed By Physicians
Due to the research that shows that women are disproportionately dismissed or not taken seriously as to their pain reporting, I found an organization that has evolved called Campaign to End Chronic Pain. It is dedicated to moving forward on this issue and helping change this disproportionate response.
Tip for Women Pain Bearers
In this article in The Journal of Live Science, Ed Keogh, a psychologist from the Pain Management Unit at the University of Bath reports that “Women 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,” Keogh said.
So if you are in pain:
- Focus only on the sensations, the physical feelings, and notice these things in your body. Try not to make judgments about the emotional impact.
- Advocate with your physicians to make sure your pain is being managed appropriately. There could be an unconscious bias occurring. Well informed is well armed.
Call to Action: Do you know of anyone in pain? Or do you know of anyone who is a caregiver, relative, or friend of someone in pain? Please forward this article. I am sure they would be grateful that you are thinking of them.
Cherilynn Veland is a therapist living in Chicago.
She also blogs about home, work, life and love