My Chronic Pain is the Same as Your Chronic Pain, Right?
If I stub my toe, it hurts. If you stub your toe, it hurts. My pain is the same as your pain, right? Actually, no. Pain is, in fact, very different based on gender! During the 188th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Jennifer Kelly, Ph.D. discussed three differences between how men and women experience pain and how that can influence chronic pain. Also included are some great tips for reducing chronic pain!
Women experience pain longer and more intensely than men. Why?
Experts agree that hormones are a major influencer. Testosterone can decrease pain sensitivity. Thus, men, who have higher levels of testosterone than women, can benefit from decreased pain sensitivity. Estrogen—the female hormone—makes a woman, well, complicated. Some studies have shown that women experiencing low levels of estrogen (such as during menstruation or menopause) are more sensitive to pain, but others experience the exact opposite. Scientists are still working to determine whether estrogen decreases or increases pain levels.
Emotional factors also come into play.
Scientists have used brain scans to identify regions of the brain that respond to pain. Subjects then receive pain stimulus (aren’t you glad you didn’t sign up for that!) while scientists monitor which parts of the brain become active. Men feel pain and the “thought” parts of their brain activate. This means they identify the pain, analyze it, and find a solution. Women feel pain and the “emotion” parts of their brain activate. This means they identify the pain and then think of the consequences. Jennifer Kelly explained it this way, “If a man hits his hand, his hand hurts, but if a woman hits her hand, she focuses on the emotional aspects… and how it is going to impact day-to-day functions. Women tend to experience more pain as a result, possibly because the emotions associated with pain are usually negative.”
Health can affect pain levels.
The final aspect of gender differences and pain she presented was how other health conditions can affect pain levels. “Most notably, depression may magnify the emotional response to pain. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, which is a risk factor for chronic pain conditions,” says Kelly. Women also tend to be more in tune with their bodies, noticing changes sooner than men, which can increase their awareness of pain which, in turn, increases it.
None of these factors are things that we have much control over.
Basically, medications are designed for a male who weighs 150-200 pounds. Obviously, not everyone falls into that category, so there are some dosage changes the doctor can help you with. The hormone issue is a good one to bring up with your doctor if you’re a woman. Pain medications aren’t designed with hormones in mind. You need to let your doctor know if you are approaching, experiencing, or have gone through menopause as this can change how medications work. Pay attention to whether your pain levels increase with menstruation. Weight levels also come into play with pain relievers, regardless of male or female, a larger person may require, and be able to metabolize, larger doses. This is something you need to discuss and make decisions about with your doctor.
What can we control?
If you suffer from chronic pain such as TMJ, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, or migraines, this information doesn’t offer relief as working with your doctor to regulate dosage levels rarely provides true pain relief. Is there any hope for you? Yes!
Tips for dealing with chronic pain:
- Take an active role in caring for yourself. This includes eating well and getting exercise. When you are in pain, exercise is not easy. You don’t have to lift weights and run a marathon. Do beginner’s, gentle yoga. There are some programs where you do yoga sitting in a chair. There are Senior Citizen workouts that are designed for those who aren’t very mobile. When you hurt, this may be the route you need to go. You do, however, need to move. Studies have shown that even imagining yourself moving increases muscle ability. (These studies were done with people who were unable to move due to traction or temporary paralysis. Of course, there are greater benefits to actually moving.)
- Have a support system. Let friends, family or a support group know when you’re experiencing more pain. Help them to understand that you need upbeat support. When you allow yourself to become pessimistic or melodramatic, or what pain experts call, “catastrophizing” your pain, it can make pain (and depression) worse. Teach yourself and your support system how to lift you up. Count your blessings. Tell jokes. Remind each other of silly movie scenes. Focus on the good, the positive, the progress, the things you can do.
- Learn and practice deep breathing and meditation. The influx of oxygen through the body will decrease pain and stress. You always see “reduce stress” on these lists. Just looking at those two words, reduce stress, can cause stress for many people. Instead, learn to breathe deep. Stop every hour and take three deep breaths. You will be amazed at the results! Yawn! That’s a great help, too.
- Here’s a hot, new catchphrase: practice cognitive behavioral coping strategy. All this means is to teach yourself to think positively! Put a sign where you will see it at least fifty times a day (you may need more than one sign) that simply says, “I am so excited!” Look at it, read it, say it (yes, you’ll find yourself singing it); it will make a positive difference—in your outlook on life and in your pain levels.
- Get a Rezzimax Tuner®. Why? The Rezzimax Tuner® can help reset the Vagus nerve, reducing pain levels.
The Rezzimax Tuner covers all these tips!
When you use the Rezzimax® Tuner Pro, you sit or lie down in a comfortable position and loosen your jaw muscles by placing the tip of your tongue between your front teeth. Next, apply the Tuner Pro and hum to the resonance, this synchronizes your nervous system with the tool. Identify any negative thought and immediately replace it with seven positive thoughts. Repeat this process several times. This changes your brain chemistry and sets you up for immediate and successful pain relief. By following this procedure, you will be applying cognitive behavioral coping strategies, reducing stress, helping your body heal, practicing gentle meditative techniques, and taking an active part in caring for yourself! With the Tuner, you can cover all the tips listed above, including the support system! By picking up your Rezzimax® Tuner Pro, you are taking part in the hopes and dreams of many others who are working to relieve chronic pain—yours and theirs.