- Women are more likely to get rid of their chronic pain as a result of stress and overemotion.
- Experts say this is a structural problem caused by sexism – and the stress from it can make the pain worse.
- Doctors ignored a woman’s pain and caused her to go blind.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Sitting in my surgeon’s office while the clinical lighting highlights the scans showing every inch of my painfully malformed ankles, we begin planning the next year of my life and what it will be like about the major reconstructive surgery.
He explains that if my tarsal coalition – a fusion of two different joints that were present from birth – had been diagnosed as a child, my skeleton would have been malleable enough to remove the fusion and allow normal foot structure to appear in its place allow. Now in my twenties, I’m too old to try and work on something “normal”.
Instead, during a global pandemic, I have to undergo an intricate operation that involves restructuring my foot to bypass a bone deformity and help me walk, albeit abnormally.
This late diagnosis is not due to lack of struggle against my corner or lack of symptoms.
Rather, it is because doctors do not believe that I was only suffering from growing pains or an ingrained need for attention. I spent many hours with doctors – both in general practices and in hospitals – and couldn’t walk properly: but no one seemed to believe that I was really in pain.
Continue reading: 3 ways managers can support employees with chronic pain and fatigue
It was eight years before he was heard.
This is a reality for many others as well. And for those who have experienced this, it comes as no surprise that it disproportionately affects women.
Several studies have used a mechanism called GREP (Gender Role Expectations of Pain Measure) to understand how a patient’s gender changes how they perceive pain.
These studies show why women wait longer for medical help than men. This gender bias could be exacerbated by the global delays in non-COVID health care due to the pandemic. For example, Insider’s Kate Duffy recently reported on the delays in the UK healthcare system – resulting in a life-threatening postponement of cancer treatments and canceled surgeries.
Many studies on GREP have shown that women report pain more or more quickly and are more sensitive to pain than their male counterparts.
“Women complain more than men; women do not report their pain accurately; men are more stoic so that when they complain of pain it is” real “; and women are better able to endure pain or have better coping skills than men “Wrote a seminal study on the subject – The Girl Who Cried Pain.
Another study published in May 2021 found that women experience less pain overall than men – even if they rate their pain at the same level as their male counterparts.
In short, women are viewed as more sensitive and dramatic, so their pain is viewed as an overreaction rather than a debilitating reality minutes for pain medication. For women it is 65 minutes.
This can have devastating consequences.
Sarah Harris, 24, a journalist, 24, from Nottingham, England, told Insider that she believes that reversing her pain caused her to permanently lose 95% of her eyesight – something that could have been saved if the condition had been corrected earlier.
“One day I woke up with a backache and 24 hours later I could barely move. Over the next few days the symptoms slowly got worse, but the doctors kept telling me it was stress.
“After seeing my doctors almost every day, I happened to have a routine optician’s appointment. The optician looked me in the eye and told me I had to go to the hospital straight away, so I did and was diagnosed.” Idiopathic intracranial
(high pressure around the brain).
“I was in the hospital for a month and had a lumbar puncture every few days and eventually had to have emergency surgery to put a tube into my spine. If my doctors had listened to me earlier, we would have been able to absorb and prevent irreversible damage to eyes, brain and nerves in the end. “
Sarah Harris lost her eyesight after doctors didn’t believe her pain
Dr. Ruby Nguyen, associate professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota, told Insider that there are four main reasons for this pattern; Clinicians misunderstand the relationship between the mental and the physical, poor diagnostic models, social stigma and misogyny.
“Men are more likely to be perceived as specific when it comes to pain. So his back pain is justified, for example, because men are accepted as more active and work-oriented people,” said Dr. Nguyen.
“But society holds the stigma that women shouldn’t be in physical pain because their lives are seen as less labor intensive. So it is not considered justified that a woman should be in physical pain. In part, this is because society underestimates the work it needs women to do.
“If a man complains of pain, a person in their life may be with ‘See a doctor, of course, your back hurts – you are a man, you are a strong, busy man, why should’ Didn’t your body hurt? ‘ But more often when a woman says that the answer is, “Oh, you’re just stressed.
“The delay in diagnosis often results in the need to visit multiple clinicians to be heard and get that diagnosis.”
Zoe McKendree, a women’s rights activist and domestic violence consultant based in Brighton, southern England, spoke to Insider about her experience with what is known as medical misogyny.
Zoe McKendree, who tells Insider that her chronic pain was ignored for months – and resolved within weeks of being listened to
“I went to a doctor in my practice and explained that I had a pretty bad headache for several hours a day,” she tells Insider.
“He said, ‘Some women just get a headache’ – I told him that I am someone who rarely has a headache and he said something about ‘getting older’ when I was only 19 years old.
“I had a headache for eight months and went to the dentist because I had a severe toothache in the top of my mouth. The dentist told me it was because I had a severe sinus infection that was pressing on the roots of my teeth. The dentist did I prescribed antibiotics and the pain went away within a few days. I never went to that family doctor again. ”
This form of disability often results in different treatment for women. For example, one study found that for chronic pain, men were more likely to be prescribed pain medication, while women were given psychotherapy – a treatment for the pain that is “everything on their mind.”
Dr. Melinda Nicola of Murdoch University, Australia, said that invalidation adds another dimension of suffering to ignored pain.
“Pain invalidation causes stress and anxiety. In addition, evidence supports the idea that stress induces inflammatory responses in the body, potentially contributing to the worsening of pain.”
This should not diminish the experience that many people – regardless of gender – have with a belated diagnosis and the devaluation of chronic pain.
For example, diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis – a form of inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects people in their late teens or early twenties – takes an average of more than eight years, regardless of gender. This is due to a number of factors, said Dr. Nicola told Insider, including a lack of awareness of the condition and the effects of stereotypes about what life with arthritis is like.
However, there is also a gender factor in medicine that results in women suffering from chronic pain longer and more severely.
“Unfortunately, what we see here is that doctors often associate gender with our feelings – women are seen as more dramatic and less trustworthy in describing pain,” said Dr. Nguyen.