Thursday, August 4, 2011

Men, Women, and Pain

Rigorous research has concluded that men have a higher threshold for pain.  In a large-scale prospective study of 700 patients conducted by physicians from Tufts-New England Medical Center and San Ignacio Hospital, Bogata, Colombia, researchers examined post-surgical morphine use.  After adjusting for type of surgery and age, women had higher levels of pain intensity throughout the study than men, requiring an average of 30% more morphine on a per-weight basis than men to attain a similar decrease in pain intensity. 

Research results have been mixed, some finding that men required more morphine after surgery than women.  A very large Chinese study found women used significantly less morphine when using patient-controlled analgesia post-operatively, indicating that cultural, ethnic or genetic factors may account for differing research results.  But in animal models, male rats exhibited greater analgesia than female rats to equal doses of opioids.

The researchers wrote that, “Sex differences in pain perception have been attributed to a different socialization process for men and women that influences bodily experience and the willingness to communicate distress. Hormone variations could also in part explain sex differences in pain experience and response to morphine.”

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