News) -- Chronic pain occurs more often, is more intense and
lasts longer in women than in men, a pain expert reports.
Women are also more likely to experience
multiple painful conditions at the same time, which can lead
to greater mental stress and increased risk of disability,
according to Jennifer Kelly, of the Atlanta Center for
Chronic pain -- pain that lasts six
months or longer without relief from medical treatment -- is
associated with many conditions, including fibromyalgia,
irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and
migraines, which are all more prevalent in women than in
men, noted Kelly, referencing the International Association
for the Study of Pain's 2007-2008 report on pain in women.
"Chronic pain affects a higher proportion
of women than men around the world. We need to encourage
women to take a more active role in their treatment and
reduce the stigma and embarrassment of this problem," Kelly
said in an American Psychological Association news release.
She was slated to discuss the issue
Thursday at the APA's annual meeting, in San Diego.
Hormones may be a factor in these gender
differences, she said. For example, it's known that estrogen
plays a role in migraines, and that rates of pain conditions
increase among girls as they pass through puberty. Among
adolescent boys, rates of pain conditions are stable or rise
Some research suggests that women and men
may respond differently to pain medications.
"Genetic and hormonal differences may be
the main reason for any differences, but it's becoming
increasingly clear that social and psychological factors are
also important," Kelly said.
"Women tend to focus on the emotional
aspects of pain," she explained. "Men tend to focus on the
physical sensations they experience. Women who concentrate
on the emotional aspects of their pain may actually
experience more pain as a result, possibly because the
emotions associated with pain are negative."
Among other things, Kelly encouraged
practitioners to allow patients, especially women, to take
an active role in their treatment, to provide psychological
support and to offer relaxation techniques and biofeedback.
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