Idea men feel more pain 'a myth'
- 24 January 2012
- From the section Health
New research casts doubt on the idea that women can cope better with pain than men.
In fact, women appear to be more sensitive to pain for illnesses such as neck pain and sinusitis, according to a study of 72,000 US patients.
Doctors should pay more attention to how pain differs between men and women, says a Stanford University team.
Hormones, genes or psychological factors could explain the differences, they report in the Journal of Pain.
Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine, California, analysed pain scores recorded in the medical records of more than 72,000 patients.
In what they believe to be the largest study of its kind, they found differences in the levels of pain reported by men and women for certain disorders, including back conditions, sinusitis and hernias.
The team, led by Dr Atul Butte, reported in The Journal of Pain: "Our data support the idea that sex differences exist, and they indicate that clinicians should pay increased attention to this idea."
They say more research is needed into why men and women seem to experience pain differently.
Past studies have found that hormones may influence sensitivity to pain, including the stage of the menstrual cycle.
Commenting on the research, Peter Baker, Chief Executive of the Men's Health Forum, said: "Maybe because men are supposed to be 'strong and silent' they are underestimating their pain because they don't want to admit to it.
"Men can underplay their symptoms, they don't like to make a fuss, which is one of the reasons why men often don't want to seek help."