Do Women Feel More Pain Than Men? Study Says, 'Yes'

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Women Communicate More Emotion

As for Leek, she eventually learned the cause of her pain -- scar tissue around one of the main genital nerves as a result of a tubal pregnancy.

She, too, questions the study, but said it raises some important questions about how women are treated in the medical world.

"I don't know if women feel pain more," she said. "My husband is a bigger baby than I am. I think I have an extraordinary threshold for pain. I don't know how many animals can live with what I went through for so many years now."

But she said doctors do tend to treat women in pain differently than they do men.

"Doctors will ask, 'Are you feeling emotional?' or 'How are things at home?'" she said. "'Here, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.' It happens a lot. I can't imagine any woman wanting to be in severe chronic pain -- it's not a choice."

Mindy Meyer, a professional facilitator who has lived with complex regional pain syndrome and fibromyalgia for years, agrees.

"I don't know if women actually feel pain more," said the 45-year-old from Venice Beach, Calif. "If they test by putting you hand in an ice bucket and see how long you can keep it there, maybe women are smart enough to take it out sooner."

"But how women and men communicate their pain is very different," she said. "Women feel very connected to their pain and have and their emotions come out when describing it."

Meyer saw 13 doctors before she got a proper diagnosis and the majority were men. "It's very uncomfortable for them to see real emotion: 'Tell me the facts, m'am, just the facts.' I see them tune out."

Now, she consciously spares the doctor the emotional talk. "I can literally be in so much pain I am crying when the staff is in there, but I pull it together when the doctor is in the room and have no tears at all. And it's not easy to have to do that."

She said doctors need to listen more to their female patients -- "feelings are a part of the equation … Patients shouldn't have to shut things down."

Both Meyer and Leek sit on the leadership circle at For Grace, an advocacy organization that educates, supports and empowers women in pain through annual conferences and legislative outreach.

For Grace's "Fail First" bill recently got through the California State Assembly's appropriations committee on a 12-5 vote. If signed by the governor, it will allow women in pain much better access to pain medications, bypassing insurance companies.

As for Leek, she has seen marked improvement in her pelvic pain thought exercise and homeopathic approaches. She also tries to surround herself with positive people.

"My career was lost, but not my optimism," she said. "I continue to live well. I once read that if you can get through your 60s unscathed, you can have a pretty good life."

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