Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash

A recent study conducted by the University of Florida's Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence suggests that we should rethink how women experience pain. Unfortunately, it holds up some other harmful beliefs as well.

In the study, researchers gave men and women the same intensity of pain and asked them to rate the sensation on a scale of one to ten. "On average, women report the same stimuli to be more painful than men," researcher Roger Fillingim told NPR.

The study indicates that men and women might require different treatments for pain, possibly in the form of gendered pain medications."[W]e need to understand what the mechanisms are that are female-specific or male-specific so that we can design more personalized therapies that are going to help reduce pain for women and men in the long run," Fillingim said.

Other studies have backed up Fillingim's findings. A study published in Brain "suggests presence of sex-specific differences and reveals gene modules and signaling pathways in immune response and neuronal plasticity related to radicular/neuropathic pain."


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Women have historically been left out of pain medication studies. In 2005, Jeffrey Mogil, a professor of pain studies at McGill University, reported that 79 percent of pain studies were conducted using only male animals, and only 4 percent of those studies looked for differences between the sexes. The National Institute of Heath has only been requiring their animal research to involve both male and female animals since 2016.

While the study conducted at the University of Florida asks us to rethink what we know about the way women feel pain, it fails to take into account what actually happens when a woman reports pain. Ample studies have found that women are less likely to be taken seriously when reporting pain, even if they're experiencing the same amount as men.

A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that women admitted to the emergency room were less likely to receive treatment for pain, and had to wait 16 minutes longer to receive pain treatment than men, despite having the same pain score.

The National Pain Report conducted an online survey of 2,4000 women with chronic pain. Over 90 percent of respondents said they felt the healthcare system discriminates against women. "There seems to be an 'Oh she's so neurotic' attitude towards female chronic pain patients," said one respondent.

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It's great that researchers are starting to look at the needs of women in a different light, however the study conducted at the University of Florida puts its toe in the water of reinforcing the belief that women are "exaggerating" or "overreacting" to the amount of pain that they are experiencing.

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