Scientists at Stanford say that women apparently feel pain more intensely than men. In a study reported in the Journal of Pain, researchers examined more than 160,000 pain scores taken from over 72,000 patients who had more than 250 different diagnoses. The results showed, they say, that women’s pain scores were one whole point above the men and women reported more pain in 14 out of the 47 disease categories, which, they say, means that women feel pain more than men.
I’m not buying it.
First of all, women have to endure more physical ailments in general over the span of a lifetime than most men. Starting in puberty, girls endure a monthly cycle which can range from having mild cramps and breakouts to severe pain, mood swings, upset stomach and general malaise once a month. Then factor in how much discomfort and pain that pregnancy and childbirth can produce: morning sickness, swelling feet, back pain, nausea, C-sections, tearing during vaginal delivery. Postpartum, what about the first bathroom trip after giving birth or the cracked nipples from breastfeeding? The list can go on and on.
At the same time, we all know how a common cold can affect a guy, right? You might think he’s dying, he might even say he’s dying while you’re just as sick but not able to stay in bed all day, so you go about your regular business with your headcold. I mean, when do moms ever get a sick day?
Also, take into account the process in which the study went down. The men had to say they felt pain and being the rugged male, when asked to say if he feels pain, I’m kind of expecting most to downplay the actual pain factor. One article even suggests that the guys probably minimized it, especially to female nurses in order to appear more of a tough guy.
In addition, women tend to get more diseases of certain types and are hideously under-diagnosed in many others. In the study, women reported experiencing more pain in musculo-skeletal disorders (neck, back and joint pain) which may certainly stem from the issues related to pregnancy and motherhood.
You might say my presumptions might be slightly skewed perhaps, but I’m not alone in mistrusting this study. In the Huffington Post, Dr. Lloyd Saberski, medical director of the Advanced Diagnostic Pain Treatment Centers at Yale University is just as skeptical:
“It’s a flawed study. 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.
Another truth might also be in how a person, male or female, is taught to respond to pain. Whenever my kids fell down and scraped themselves or got a black and blue, I always downplayed it. I washed it and put on a band-aid but always ended with “You’re fine”. I told them that if you have scrapes and small bruises, that usually meant you were having fun. Think about it. Kids who run, climb, and explore do have fun and yeah, sometimes they fall down and get hurt but you can either view simple pain as tolerable or the end of the world.
Bottom line: Pain is subjective and I highly doubt you can say for sure that one gender experiences more pain intensely. Plus, if you’re suggesting women are wimpier, that’s clearly just insane.
What do you think?