Women and Black People Have Lower Pain Tolerance

In Line at the Medical Centre (7989958032)Lower pain tolerance than who you might well ask. Why white males, of course, the people that the medical and pharmaceutical industries serve. The Boston Globe reports that “Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from migraines; African-Americans were 1.4 times as likely as whites to report recent pain that interfered with their lives; both white and black test subjects rate blacks’ pain as less intense than whites; women are up to 25 percent less likely than men to receive opiod painkillers when they come to the ER with acute abdominal pain”:

If you stopped the average person in an emergency room and asked why she’s there—not just her guess at the problem, but what really motivated her to show up—the number one answer would be “pain.”

For all that modern medicine has learned about disease and treatment, it’s alleviating pain that still lies at the heart of the profession. And in recent years, the notion of treating “pain” as its own entity has been rising to the forefront in medicine. Pain management now has its own journals, conferences, clinics, and specialists, and pain relief is sometimes referred to as a human right. The Institute of Medicine reports there are more than 100 million chronic pain sufferers in the United States, and others have estimated the problem costs $60 billion a year in lost productivity. In September, a coalition that includes the FDA, the CDC, and the NIH is expected to release a long-awaited “National Pain Strategy.”

But as pain rises on the agenda for clinicians and patients, research is uncovering some unsettling facts about how it really affects people. First, not everyone experiences pain similarly. In experiments, women and black people have frequently shown lower pain tolerance when asked to do things like hold their hands in ice water. Gender differences in pain prevalence and intensity emerge in adolescence, and for reasons not fully understood, women are particularly vulnerable to conditions including migraines, back pain, and fibromyalgia. Low-income Americans, too, are more likely to suffer pain than their high-income peers: They are likelier to be engaged in manual labor, to eat poorly, and to go to the doctor less often, to name just a few causes. Among pain patients, blacks and Hispanics are likelier to report their pain is severe.

It’s also clear that not everyone’s pain receives equal attention. A robust and growing body of evidence suggests that the groups who suffer the most also receive less effective treatment for that suffering…

[continues at Boston Globe]

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  • Ted Heistman

    pain is a mysterious thing. First of all its completely subjective. No doctor can tell you how much pain you are in.

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  • InfvoCuernos

    I’m not sure I can agree with this finding. Its pretty hard to say that women, who experience menstrual cramps stoically on a monthly basis, can be said to have a lower pain tolerance than your average white male. It may be possible that black people feel surface pain more intensely, possibly from they’re having had much less nerve damage from sunburns, but this does not cover all types of pain. It seems like the set up for some Mengele-style mad scientist experiments.

    The opioid prescription discrepancies for children might be seen as a blessing in disguise. I would rather they didn’t give my children any opioid for a tonsillectomy.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I’d suggest that rather than some pseudo science race/gender difference mumbo jumbo…how about a simple anthropological answer? I’m a lower income white male with a physical labor job who doesn’t seek medical attention often. I come from a culture that is stoic almost to the point of suicide. Our family history is one of people enduring discomfort to achieve goals. Even extreme discomfort. Ignoring pain and functioning anyway receives nods of respect that are rarely given out for anything short of marriages, new births or promotions. With the solitary exception of my father, no one on that side of the family has ever been above low to lower middle class in income, but even in my family that stoicism and unhealthy need to display indifference to agony is still strong.

    Case in point: Three months ago I fell off a ladder, broke 5 ribs in eight places, and fractured my left arm from the elbow down to almost the wrist. I walked off the shock, told everyone else what to do for me, and waited for the ambulance and walked into it on my own. I skimped on my painkillers after the two week mark and was up, moving and driving around, weaned myself down to nothing but generic tylenol by week 4, and was working again a week later. While I was working that first day, the girl hanging out in the house I was in asked my why I would go back to work after an injury that severe…even though I clearly wasn’t fully healed and wasn’t comfortable. I gave her two reasons…I hate sitting still, and the pain wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t function…so it was time for me to get out and get back to work. She looked at me like I’d grown another head.

    If you’ve lived a life where emotional suffering is all you endure…physical pain is shocking and terrifying. If you’ve ached and hurt and felt pain but pushed past it and did what was needed anyway, it changes the way you perceive pain forever after. The downside is that sometimes, when you need medical attention, you may try to avoid it because ‘it isn’t that bad.’ For all that the culture I come from has some bragging rights for producing tough guys…we also suffer the cost of our own stubbornness far too often.

    • InfvoCuernos

      Yep. I was raised that the hospital was a last resort. Even when we had good medical coverage, it was only when an injury was at a point where we couldn’t look after it ourselves that we would go in to the hospital. Now that I’m pretty much without coverage, and after one of those misdiagnosis episodes, I’ll pretty much need to be camped out on death’s door for a week before I go in. I can count the number of prescription pain pills I have taken on one hand. It is a source of (fucked up) pride that I have bones that mended crookedly because I “toughed it out” instead of doing the right thing and going in to set them properly. And then there’s the kidney stones…

    • Dingbert

      The older I get, the more I wish I would’ve babied my injuries instead of playing through the pain. No longer being able to physically do your favorite things hurts worse.

  • Mr B

    Today’s people don’t feel pain.
    When do you ever see anyone close their ear, when a siren passes by?

    Where was the vicarious horror, when the snuff video of Gaddafi’s murder transpired?
    21st century people generally move like perfunctory robots, hold no grudges and ignore all social scandals.

    Rhinoceroses made from rubber.

  • Hadrian999

    i always knew the skirts were exaggerating childbirth

  • J_

    seems like bad science. reporting pain doesn’t mean you feel it more it means you report it more. i thought dis info was supposed to question the “news”.

    if society deems your pain less you have to rate it higher in order to get equal treatment. society doesn’t want to think about how crappy and painful a lot of the low income jobs really are because then they might have to pay a decent wage. put on high heels and wait tables, go pick peppers in a field all day, be a nurse. if you aren’t hurting you’re probably not being a “productive” enough.

    men die more often and end up with more debilitating conditions because they continue to do painful things without seeking treatment! most of the guys i know over about 45-50 that worked construction aren’t doing so well, but they don’t have any health coverage without work so it doesn’t do them any good to go to a doctor instead of a six pack. i know more men in general with serious RSIs because they didn’t treat it early.

    society is less tolerant of men’s pain because they wouldn’t be as good workers if they let something like pain stop them. by the time it catches up to them the bosses don’t care because they’re on their way out of the work force anyway. if they blow their brains out or drink themselves to an early death, that’s less social security check that gets paid out.

    big media sells the image of the tough guy that doesn’t feel pain in order to control. the really tough thing to do is to stop putting up with pain, damn what anyone else tells you.

    this “study” seems to be pushing the idea that women and minorities are weaker to both minimize women and minorities pain and to indoctrinate men into the idea that they are supposed to not let pain bother them.

  • Ted Heistman

    I think many people are realizing that and that is why things like Qi gong are becoming more popular.

  • Ted Heistman

    I worked at Labor Ready. The Black guys did as little work as possible. The white guys didn’t work much either, but spent all their time bitching about the black guys.

    The Mexicans did all the work. They told me I worked like a Mexican and all the black guys and the white guys hated me, because I made them look bad.

    Actually I was working for Mexicans. They worked with the construction outfit, and I was one of the guys working for Labor Ready helping them. In the Southwest and all up the West Coast the Mexicans have the construction business locked down.

    I don’t think you can separate, genetic and cultural factors entirely. But I think part of the thing with Mexicans, talking about recent immigrants, is that many of them grew up on farms. Years ago a lot of working class whit guys came from the farm too, but more and more they come from trailer parks and suburbs. Black people are very often from urban areas and have a cultural thing thats like a reaction to slavery or something where they take pride in doing as little work as possible. I know left wingers will get their panties all in a knot about this, but anyone who has worked low wage jobs with a bunch of black dudes knows this. They brag about it to each other.

    Just like the white guys brag about how hard they work, with black dudes, for some reason its the opposite. Its seen as being slick.

    Maybe it is dumb to give your all for minimum wage. I am really not holding it against the black guys, they seem more in touch with their bodies. Many of these guys who did barely any work had excellent physiques ironically.

    I know a lot of old working class white dudes get pretty broken down later in life.

    I just kind of got into it, like it was a sport. I wanted to challenge myself and see how hard I could work. I also didn’t drink or smoke like many of the other people there, so that was a factor.

    I do come from a long line of tough working class people on my Father’s side, even though comparatively I think I am a wimp.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    It’s true. I’m getting old enough now that I HAVE to pay attention to my bodies occasional complaints…because they might mean something important. The irritating thing about a life of stoicism and pain resistance…is that it becomes hard to measure pain accurately. My mild pain might be someone else’s agony. The really worrisome part is that this is more or less what killed my grandad. His ‘stomach cramp’ that wasn’t worth canceling a snowmobiling trip to Yellowstone turned out to be last stage stomach cancer that the doc said should have been crippling to experience. Grandad came home from vacation, finally got a check up, came home after the results were in and prepared his estate…then checked into the hospital and was gone in about 3 weeks. I am worried that not being able to register pains as serious may bit me in the ass someday…luckily I’ve got some friends with considerable medical experience who are practicing today. I ask questions and look for tips and pointers on how to separate mild issues from dangerous symptoms.

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