Pain is experienced differently between men and women according to a recent study. This difference was noticed in the type of surgeries experienced, and found that men find major surgery more difficult to handle than women. Meanwhile, women are more likely to rate minor surgery pain higher than males.
The researchers based in Germany, spoke to 10,200 patients who had undergone surgery no more than four years prior to the study. Fifty-eight percent of the total was female, and there was a mixture of surgery types, including knee replacements and biopsies.
There was a limitation in the assessment of whether surgery was major or minor. The researchers had to go by the intensity of the pain expected after the surgery, rather than by a medical decision over whether the surgery was major or minor. There was no difference in the overall experience of the feeling after surgery until they distinguish between major and minor surgery was considered.
Researchers wonder whether the differences are actually due to the psychological and emotional toll that some surgeries can have on people. Women can find abortion or cancer-related biopsy surgeries more taxing on the emotions, and that can affect the way they view the feeling. Dr. Andreas Sandner-Kiesling from Austria’s Medical University of Graz suggests that it is anxiety.
There has been a lot of research over recent years to determine the difference between men and women when it comes to experiencing pain. Some studies continually show that women find it harder to deal with than men, while others are the complete opposite.
A study of 11,000 patients at Stanford Hospital and Clinics found that women felt the sensations more intensely than men. This study considered the different disorders that could cause pain, including back conditions, infectious diseases and cancer. Nurses asked the patients to rate their pain from zero for “no pain” to 11 for “worst pain imaginable.” Very few rated it in the middle, with women more likely to rate it at the higher end of the scale.
One of the biggest issues with self-reports like this is that pain tolerance is different for everyone. Some people can handle extreme pain as if it was a paper cut, while others struggle with the slightest knock to the elbow. However, Dr. Atul Butte, the lead author of the paper, believes that there is a clear difference since so many more women reported higher numbers than others.
Hormones have been blamed for women experience the feeling more intensely than men. However, one thing the research did not go into was whether the women had experienced some of the worst conditions, which could skew the results.
The German study also does not go into whether there were complications with surgery, or problems afterwards. Patients were asked to rate their pain 24 hours after their surgical procedure, which could also skew the results. One thing that the German study did point out—and something that links to the hormone possibility—is that the women who had the major surgery were over 58 in most cases, and post-menopause. This would have an effect on hormones, which could explain why in this study there was a surprising difference between the way men and women experience pain.
By Alexandria Ingham