Pain Intensity Greater for Women Than Men, Study Finds

Medical record analysis reveals that pain scores are higher among females for a wide range of diseases

MONDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- According to the results of a study in which researchers examined pain scores from tens of thousands of patients in the United States, women experience more intense pain than men.

The findings, published in the Jan. 23 issue of the Journal of Pain, suggest that greater effort is needed to recruit women into studies in order to determine the reasons for this gender difference, the Stanford University School of Medicine investigators said.

For the study, the researchers analyzed electronic medical records to examine more than 160,000 pain scores reported for more than 72,000 adult patients. The results showed higher pain scores for women in virtually every disease category. The differences were both statistically and clinically significant, the authors noted in a Stanford news release.

"In many cases, the reported difference approached a full point on the 1-to-10 scale. How big is that? A pain-score improvement of one point is what clinical researchers view as indicating that a pain medication is working," study senior author Dr. Atul Butte, a professor of systems medicine in pediatrics, said in the news release.

The overall results tended to confirm previous findings, such as the fact that women with fibromyalgia or migraine report more pain than men with those conditions. But the study also identified previously undocumented gender differences. For example, pain intensity among patients with acute sinusitis or neck pain is greater in women than in men.

Butte noted that there are numerous studies showing that women report more pain than men for a number of diseases.

"We're certainly not the first to find differences in pain among men and women. But we focused on pain intensity, whereas most previous studies have looked at prevalence: the percentage of men versus women with a particular clinical problem who are in pain," he said.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first-ever systematic use of data from electronic medical records to examine pain on this large a scale, or across such a broad range of diseases," Butte added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about pain.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Stanford University, news release, Jan. 23, 2012

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