Pain is a far more complex issue than most people realize. In order to feel pain sensations, your body goes through a specific process known as nociception. This unique process uses different neural pathways than those involved with normal perception, like temperature, pressure, and touch. Instead, your nerves, known as nociceptors, specialize in issues that cause pain.
The nociception process starts when nociceptors detect damage somewhere in your body. This causes them to kick into action and fire off messages to your central nervous system, which includes your brain and spinal cord. In fractions of a second, your brain receives this message and decides how to respond, including which sensations you should feel as a result.
While this process is the same in men and women, there are also differences when it comes to how women experience pain and respond to treatment. At Elite Pain Management, our team understands the challenges that come with managing chronic pain, but we can help.
If you’re a woman with chronic pain, here’s how biology and gender bias can factor into your condition.
Chronic pain and your biology
When it comes to chronic pain, there is more involved than nociception alone. In fact, experts speculate that women have a higher risk of chronic pain for specific physiological reasons. A big one is genes. That’s because several chronic pain conditions have genetic components and those genes occur more frequently in women, as with fibromyalgia. But hormones, brain chemistry, and biology can also play a role.
Early evidence shows a link between pain reception and estrogen and progesterone, both of which are female hormones. As a result, these hormones can actually trigger neurochemical changes that intensify the pain sensations and discomfort you feel.
In addition to these neurochemical changes, your hormones can also increase your chances of several pain conditions like migraines, which are often intimately linked with menstrual cycles.
Brain chemistry and structure
While the central nervous system activates in both women and men who experience pain, data show that women’s pain processors function with much greater activity, even when experiencing the same level of pain. In addition, certain narcotic painkillers work better on women, while others work better on men. This is most likely because different areas of the brain respond to the painkillers as a result of gender.
Differences in biology
In addition to having different hormones and brain chemistry, women also have very different reproductive systems. Because of this, they’re far more likely to experience painful things, like menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth. Women also have higher rates of vertebral changes, compression fractures, and bone loss as they age, which increases their risk of pain.
Chronic pain and gender bias
Unfortunately, chronic pain is also an area steeped in bias. Because of this, even though women may report chronic pain at higher rates than men, they’re also more likely to receive prescription sedatives — instead of pain medications — when seeking help. Research also shows that doctors are 22 times more likely to recommend that men get knee surgery for arthritis pain than women, even when surgery is the woman’s best treatment option.
There are several theories about why this bias may occur when it comes to treating chronic pain, such as:
- Traditional American stereotypes that women are emotional and overly sensitive
- Men are able to communicate in ways their doctor better understands because most pain specialists are male
- Women having higher rates of chronic pain conditions that are harder to diagnose, like fibromyalgia
With help from our specialized team, you can finally find the help you need for your chronic pain.
Finding relief for chronic pain
At Elite Pain Management, we want to improve the quality of life for each and every patient we have trusting us with their care. We take a multidisciplinary approach to identifying and treating the source of your pain while getting your symptoms under control.
A few of our therapies for chronic pain include:
- Nerve blocks
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Pain injections
- Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants, and carefully supervised opioids
If you have chronic pain, rest assured that you can find personalized and compassionate care, even if you’ve felt ignored in the past. Contact us by calling or requesting an appointment online at one of our convenient locations throughout South Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, and Nevada.