The Unexamined Life

Women Perceive Pain More Intensely Than Men, Study Says

For a wide array of reasons, women have it bad for simply being… women. For one thing, a generally patriarchal society has unwillingly turned them into minorities in almost all fields, whether they want it or not. They go through period cramps and pains every month for almost all their lives, and they’re the ones who have to bear all of the agony that comes with giving birth.

And if that’s not enough, pain researchers have also identified that women also suffer more painful conditions, mainly because they experience pain at a much intense level than men.

“The burden of pain is substantially greater for women than men, and that led pain researchers like myself to wonder if the pain perception system is different in women than in men,” psychologist Roger Fillingim, who lead the research, said.

To understand this, Fillingim decided to dedicate more than two decades of his life to study pain and its link between gender differences. To do this, he recruited both healthy male and female women volunteers, who took part in experiments concerning pain stimuli. Most recently, he’s doing his research at the University of Florida’s Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence. He is currently serving as director in the center.

By comparing the data he has gathered from all these experiments, he is able to confirm that women experience pain more intensely than men, and that findings are consistent.

"On average, women report the same stimuli to be more painful than men," Fillingim said, emphasizing that the same amount of stimulus is given to everybody.

Are Women More Accustomed to Pain?

However, the research also gave way for another question to pop up: Are women just more accustomed to pain? Of course, it could be that men themselves aren’t willing to admit just how much something hurts, but women themselves are the ones who lead a more painful life, what with period cramps and childbirth.

"We may ultimately need pink and blue pills, but in order to get there we 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,” he said.

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