ATLANTA, Aug. 13 (UPI) — Chronic pain is more intense and lasts longer for women than men and a higher proportion of women suffer from diseases that bring such pain, doctors say.
Jennifer Kelly of the Atlanta Center for Behavioral Medicine in Georgia says women have more recurrent pain and more disabilities from pain-causing illnesses such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome, CNN reported Friday.
Hormones could be one reason women bear this burden of pain, Kelly said, noting the menstrual cycle can be associated with changes in discomfort among women with chronic pain.
Pain also can have long-lasting consequences, studies show. Women who suffer menstrual cramps have significant brain structure changes compared with women who don’t, one study found, while other studies have revealed abnormal brain structure changes in people with disorders such as chronic back pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
Women tend to focus on pain on an emotional level, worrying about how it will affect their responsibilities, whereas men focus on the sensory aspect, Kelly said, urging doctors to help women deal with negative thoughts that can make a painful situation worse.
One woman who suffers from arthritic conditions agrees patients with chronic pain need help changing their mind-set about pain.
“Part of what helped me was switching out the model in which I had to be pain free to be happy,” Melanie Thernstrom says. “Realizing I can have some pain, just like it can be raining outside and I can be happy — it’s all a matter of what level the pain is at.”
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