Sex Differences Exist in Disease-Linked Pain Intensity

Women report higher pain intensity in musculoskeletal and other disorders

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Sex differences exist in specific disease-associated pain intensity, with women suffering a higher prevalence of pain for musculoskeletal, neuropathic, abdominal, and migraine-related conditions, according to a study published online Jan. 16 in The Journal of Pain.

David Ruau, Ph.D., from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues used diagnosis-associated pain scores from de-identified electronic medical records of more than 72,000 patients. At least one disease-associated pain score was contained in each record. More than 160,000 pain scores in more than 250 primary diagnoses were found, and the differences in disease-specific pain reported by men and women were analyzed. No information about the use of pre-encounter over-the-counter medications was available.

The researchers found that, after filtering for diagnoses with a minimum encounter number, diagnosis-specific sex differences were found in reported pain. Patients with disorders of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems experienced the most significant differences, and these were followed by patients with infectious diseases and injury and poisoning. Significant sex-specific differences in pain intensity were identified in previously unreported diseases, including disorders of the cervical region and acute sinusitis (P = 0.01 and 0.017, respectively).

"Our data support the idea that sex differences exist, and they indicate that clinicians should pay increased attention to this idea. Our findings also support the need for further research in this area, such as studies investigating mechanistic and physiological causes of sex-related differences in pain," the authors write.

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