Chronic Pain in Women and the Barriers to Treatment

August 10, 2021 by Kezia
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Why should we talk about chronic pain in women?

It is true that pain is a universal experience—something that everybody in the world has to deal with regardless of gender, race, age, and background. In a way, pain can be good, because it tells your brain that there is something wrong. Your body’s nervous system sends pain signals to trigger your brain, and by doing so, it’s trying to protect you from wounding yourself further.

Pain also helps you to discover what your body needs, and to get a proper diagnosis when ill. Experiencing it becomes a huge issue when it’s ongoing and recurring, which is referred to as chronic pain. It usually lasts for 6 months or longer, but some people even struggle with it for all their lives. Chronic pain affects millions of people around the world, and it tends to persist, although they have done everything to treat it.

However, there are specific kinds of pain that only occur in women, such as endometriosis and vulvodynia. Meanwhile, other types of pain like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis affect women so much more than men. Women generally experience pain more severely and long-lastingly, too. Why does this happen? There are several factors that affect chronic pain in women, including hormones, puberty, menstrual cycle, and reproductive status.

Chronic pain in women occurs in larger percentage compared to men.
Chronic pain in women occurs in larger percentage compared to men.

Now, let’s look deeper into each type of commonly found chronic pain in women.

  • Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium), somehow grows outside the uterus. The common symptoms for this are: painful periods (including lower back pain and abdominal pain), excessive bleeding, pain with urination and bowel movements, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation—especially during menstruation.

  • Vulvodynia

As you may have guessed, vulvodynia is pain or discomfort that affects the vulva, which is the opening of the vagina. The types of discomfort and pain women may feel are burning, stinging, itching, and soreness around that area. It can be constant or intermittent, but it generally lasts over 3 months.

  • Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is referred to as widespread musculoskeletal pain that affects all over the body. It causes many other problems, such as fatigue, sleep issues, memory loss, anxiety, and mood swings. There are other symptoms as well, which are:

      • Abdominal pain, digestive problems, constipation, bloating, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

      • Pain in the face or jaw that may be diagnosed as temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ).

      • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet.


  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that mainly affects the joints. It causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, particularly the hands, wrists, and feet. It changes the lining of your joints, and may result in bone erosion and joint deformity. However, rheumatoid arthritis may even affect the skin, eyes, lungs, blood vessels, salivary glands, etc.

  • Osteoarthritis

Being the most common form of arthritis, it occurs most often in hands, hips, and knees; caused by the wearing and breaking down of the cartilage in the joints, so that the bones begin to change. The symptoms develop slowly, starting from feeling pain in the impacted area, joint stiffness, swelling, loss of flexibility, and grating sensation (hearing popping or crackling).

Like previously stated, these conditions affect more women than men. Unfortunately, despite these differences, women are also the ones who have to deal with misdiagnosis and mistreatment from healthcare professionals. Many reported that they were not taken seriously when they ran to medical professionals for help. Gender biases do exist in the medical field, causing plenty of women who have reported their pain being shrugged off by the people who are supposed to help them.

Another instance, a study* published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that, due to the fact that the existing medical understanding and concepts are based on male physiology, women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged in the middle of having a heart attack. In conducting research on chronic pain, 70% of the sufferers are women, and yet, 80% of the subjects of the studies are men. Thus, leading to the current issues and barriers women face to receive proper treatment for their chronic pain.

This needs to change. Chronic pain in women is valid, too, and there’s no reason for them to experience mistreatment, ignorance, and misdiagnosis time and time again. It’s important for us to break the barriers together as a society.

 

Read more:

Kezia



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    Visit us anytime

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    Send us an email

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      Copyright by Hope Clinic 2021. All rights reserved.



      Copyright by Hope Clinic 2021. All rights reserved.