Pain Conditions Seen More Commonly in Women

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

 

Jenny L. F. Andrus. MD

In my practice as an Interventional Pain Management Specialist, I can attest to the fact that I see more women than men for the treatment of chronic pain.  Research also tells us that women are disproportionately affected by pain conditions more often than men.  Even more concerning is they often have difficulty getting a definitive diagnosis and when they finally do, having the correct treatments prescribed to them.  This evidence was recently presented by Dr. Peter Schur, a Harvard Medical School professor and a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

Why do we see such a difference between men and women when it comes to pain? The Cleveland Clinic’s research found that women have more factors at play than men, such as hormones, reproductive status, menstrual cycles, sexual/emotional health tied to pain perception and pain threshold than men do. Another study which looked at 17 countries and over 85,000 participants, cited by The National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that arthritis fibromyalgia, whole body pain, and back pain, affected women more and put them at greater risk for compression fractures and vertebral changes, such as OA, osteoporosis and scoliosis, than men.

Sadly, we also know that there is a huge emotional component to pain, and women worldwide are often victims of violence and abuse, whether it be physical, sexual, emotional or all three. This is especially likely during times of conflict and warfare, where women continue to be seen as “spoils of war”, and are raped, taken as child brides, sold into slavery or sex trafficked.  Even during times of relative “peace”, we recognize that there is an epidemic of violence against women that occurs domestically, within the supposed “safety” of their own homes.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen domestic abuse rates soar as couples are forced to spend long stretches of time together without respite.  Abuse is often the result.

As a physician, woman, wife, and mother, I understand the complex roles and emotions that women today must handle; juggling the needs of a job, kids, their spouse, family, activities – the list goes on and on.  Often, while raising her children, the woman in question finds her needs come last and that includes those of her health. Finally, when forced to address her failing health after 20+ years, the woman may be resentful, and depressed by the lack of support she has been given. My job is to listen to a frustrated and hurting patient, who by the time she gets to me, has probably seen at least 5-10 physicians, looking for answers as to why she feels pain most of the time. 

The best part about my job is getting to know my patients and figuring out how to best help them.  After talking with them, examining them, running appropriate tests, consulting their past medical history, and understanding their goals for a better life, I can formulate a plan to address both their physical and emotional pain for more complete healing and restoration to begin.  Chronic pain doesn’t happen overnight, but in time, the patient can find wellness again.

 

Make an appointment with Dr. Andrus or another OSC provider by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.

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