This article started as more of a rant/opinion but rapidly became a research backed point that is too important to over look. As I was researching my last article about the best exercise for back pain, a few of the articles that I ran across pointed me toward this topic. I have to say, it has been a bit of a rabbit hole, so hold on and join me for this quick trip.
In researching this article idea, I found a pain website that listed it's top 25 chronic pain blog sites and the first 19 were all women with 95% of them being mothers raising children. Why is this?
I did some more digging and I also found that 70% of chronic pain sufferers are women, and the further I went into this rabbit hole, the more angry I felt.
Did you know that 'women in pain are much more likely than men to receive prescriptions for sedatives, rather than pain medication, for their ailments'. I also ran across a study that found doctors are more likely to think women’s pain is caused by emotional issues rather than physical causes, even in the presence of clinical tests which show their pain is real... (insert your 'go to' angry swear word here).
In fact, women are more likely to be taken less seriously in terms of their pain, to point one example in this anger-inducing article from the BBC where a woman was not taken seriously until she brought her boyfriend with her to a Dr. appointment to back up her pain experience. Let alone the story of the woman who died from multiple organ failure in France because they didn't take her seriously when she presented in the ER with abdominal pain.
SO with mountains of evidence that there is a gender/pain bias in the system it is clear that as women we need to advocate for ourselves with much more energy and persistence. Not surprising then that there are more women experiencing pain.
Now I could clarify and try to balance out this article with a male point of view, but that is a very 'good girl' thing to do and just continues to promote the foundation of this messed up situation. Why? Because as females we are brought up (especially those of us born before maybe 2000) and taught to be the caregivers, to take care of those around us, and to look for the places to help. The world needs caregivers, but what happens when that level of 'giving' is out of balance.
Women are often seen as selfish (and I could use other words) when they take time for themselves, expressly advocate for themselves, or speak up for equality/balance. This could lead me to a whole new article. For now let's stick to the topic of chronic pain.
More than often, women with families constantly put others first, taking on the 'motherload' of life where everything is valuable and takes priority over anything, including themselves. We know that there is a mind/body connection to persistent pain. I've talked about this before, how pain turns into a nagging, never ending, annoying, then debilitating aspect of life. Being a mother is challenging enough, but being a mother experiencing daily pain... (again, insert your go to swear here). Then to be told that your pain is due to postpartum... (more swear words).
The concept of bearing the motherload can easily point toward a clear path showing why women are more likely to experience persistent pain issues than men. Then you add in a medical system (that we are supposed to see as the answer and the 'fix') that doesn't take women seriously (again... more swear words here).
It is just as much a vicious cycle as the fear/pain cycle. I wish I had an answer here. Again all I can offer is to learn more, advocate for yourself, build your support team wisely, and breathe.
Want to share your experience? Please reach out. Let's connect and build more awareness to continue to build real change.