Do Women Feel More Pain Than Men? Study Says ‘Yes’

Pixland/Thinkstock(STANFORD, Calif.) — Pain affects more than 116 million Americans annually and is a major cause of work disability and one of the most common reasons for taking medication, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.

Of those Americans, about 50 million are women, according to the Campaign to End Chronic Pain in Women.

On Monday, a new study in the Journal of Pain reports that women seeking medical care for a wide range of medical problems in the hospital or clinics at Stanford University School of Medicine reported higher pain intensity, on average, compared with men with these same diagnoses.

Women reported more intense pain than men in 14 of 47 disease categories.  Men did not report more intense pain in any category.  Women with musculoskeletal disorders such as back, neck and joint pain, sinusitis and even high blood pressure reported more intense pain then men with these conditions.

Authors cautioned that this study cannot determine whether pain is actually experienced more intensely by women or whether women simply communicate better with their health care providers about pain.

But many other medical experts are skeptical about the Stanford study.  They say the authors didn’t account for the possibility that if many women had additional diseases that caused pain, it could actually be the other diseases — and not their gender — which is responsible for the women having more pain than men.

“It’s a flawed study,” said Dr. Lloyd Saberski, medical director of the Advanced Diagnostic Pain Treatment Centers at Yale University.  “Just how accurate is the data collected?  Probably not too accurate.”

He said the study was “dangerous” and potentially misleading and adds “nothing” to doctors’ understanding of pain.  Researchers did not control for factors such as coexisting depression and disease severity, he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Respond to this story