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Pain In Women Is Different

8 March, 2018

I’m not getting into the debate of who has a higher pain tolerance, the gals or guys. It’s irrelevant. Pain is pain. Pain is uncomfortable, frustrating and, sometimes, debilitating. It is not pleasant for anyone.

What is important is to recognise that men and women have different pain experiences and contributing factors. Women’s bodies are unique; and as such, so too are their treatment requirements.

Women's Pain

The beautiful female body hosts different curves and bone structure to that of our male counterparts. Most obviously, the female pelvis is wider to accommodate childbirth and we have the extra load of breast tissue. These factors alone can contribute to knee, foot and ankle pain and dysfunction, as well as neck, shoulder and mid-back pain.

Females are also more frequently hyper-mobile (too flexible), requiring specialised treatment approaches to strengthen muscles and protect joints whilst relieving pain and tension. Amongst manual practitioners, small, flexible females are known as the hardest patients to treat.

Female sex hormones also activate the brain in different ways.

Prior to menstruation, pain and unpleasantness perceptions are significantly higher. During this time, emotional and memory driven areas of the brain are activated making us more susceptible to pain during this period. After menstruation, the prefrontal cortex dominates. This front part of brain controls executive functions like logic and reasoning.

These unique biomechanical and chemical factors mean that females frequently suffer from:

  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Stiff & sore necks
  • Back pain
  • Jaw pain (TMJ / TMD)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Degeneration (osteoarthritis)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mid-back pain
  • Knee & hip pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Elbow pain

Different responses to medication

Being more prone to many ailments, you would think that our leading painkillers would be designed around women and their unique needs. This isn’t always the case.

For example, painkillers, such as morphine, is less effective for women. Women will frequently take double the amount of morphine to have comparable effects to men’s pain relief.

This comes along with the increased possible side effects of headaches, fast & pounding heart, light-headedness, dizziness and stomach pains.

It is believed that women don’t respond as well due to certain brain cells being overactive in females.

A study published in 2018 showed that blocking these overactive brain cells, helps women to respond better to medication. In the future, this may be addressed to provide females with better pain-relief options.

Fashion faux-pains

Women also are more likely to torture themselves for fashion. Bunions, sore feet and lower back pain are just three fatalities of high heels.

Up to 75% of women are wearing ill-fitting bras which can add to their pain, numbness, pins and needles and weakness.

We frequently discuss with patients what they need to look for when bra shopping.  Something that suits their body shape and pain patterns.

Heavy handbags can also contribute to aches and pains. Check out our simple solutions to lighten your handbag load.

“We understand women because we are women.”

Different symptoms of the same disease

Yentl Syndrome was coined in 1991 to describe the vast difference in male and female presentations of heart disease. The condition was named after an early 20th century character, Yentl, who had to dress up as a man to get the education that she desired.

Barbra Streisand, who played Yentl in the movie adaption, said: “Women around the world are dying in alarming numbers from an epidemic of heart disease. We can no longer afford the misconception that heart disease is mostly a man’s disease.

According to the World Health Organisation, heart disease is the number one killer in both men and women; yet it is frequently misdiagnosed or missed entirely in women. The symptoms of heart disease can vary: from the stereotypical (mostly male) presentation of pain with exercise and exertion leading into debilitating pain from blood vessel blockage; to more generalised fatigue, shortness of breath, flu-like symptoms and vague pain more typically reported in women. In fact, only one in eight women report chest pain during a heart attack. Women are discharged from hospital at an alarmingly high rate mid-way through their heart attack!

This is just one example of how women have a unique pain pattern compared to men.

Why is this important?

It’s important to understand the difference to find better solutions to women’s pain & health concerns. As women, we are unique in our physical and chemical make-up, resulting in different demands placed on our bodies.

Located in the heart of Moonee Ponds, Body and Brain Centre offers female practitioners who deeply understand the female body and our individual needs. Not only do we understand from first-hand experience but have extensive knowledge in treating women during a variety of situations.

Some of which include:

  • Sporting injuries
  • Pregnancy & postnatal
  • Hormonal changes such as menopause & adolescence
  • Busy and tiring times with study, work and motherhood

We offer proficient, professional and caring:

Appointments available in Moonee Ponds or online.

About the Author

Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Chiropractor, Doula, Women's Health Yoga & Pilates Instructor, Spinning Babies Lover

As a Chiropractor, Doula and perinatal Pilates & Yoga instructor, Dr Cassie loves to help pregnant women keep fit, healthy and comfortable. Knowing how empowering it felt to be fit and energetic during the pregnancy of her son inspires Cassie to want this for her patients. Cassie incorporates Spinning Babies, Yoga and Pilates exercises into her prenatal and postpartum Chiropractic sessions. She's currently studying her Graduate Certificate in Women's Health Medicine through the University of New South Wales.