More than 100 million Americans live with chronic pain, including back and joint pain and migraines. And it's more likely you suffer from these conditions if you're a woman.
"A review published in the Journal of Pain in 2009 found that women faced a substantially greater risk of developing pain conditions," writes Laurie Edwards in The New York Times. "They are twice as likely to have multiple sclerosis, two to three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and four times more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome than men. As a whole, autoimmune diseases, which often include debilitating pain, strike women three times more frequently than men."
Judy Foreman wrote about the differences in the Wall Street Journal:
Sex hormones also play a major role in the different ways men and women experience pain, though the hormonal connection is proving nightmarishly tricky to unravel.
It's clear that, as young children, boys and girls show comparable patterns of pain — until puberty. Once puberty hits, certain types of pain are strikingly more common in girls. Even when the prevalence of a pain problem is the same in both sexes, pain severity is often more intense in girls than boys. That is especially true with migraines. Before puberty, boys and girls get roughly the same number. After puberty, the prevalence becomes 18% for women and 6% or 7% for men. A similar pattern holds for TMJ, temporomandibular joint disease (now called TMD), as University of Washington researchers have shown.
On The Daily Circuit, we discuss what researchers know about chronic pain in women and the developing treatments.