In a recent study conducted, “his ‘n’ hers” pain medication could be on the horizon. Researchers are learning that it’s most likely true that women suffer more chronic pain than men — and it’s not just because they give birth.
The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Daily Mail reports.
Researchers have learned women experience chronic pain more intensely than men. It comes down to social, cultural, and hormonal factors, according to the report.
A co-author of the study — Jeffrey Mogill — is a professor of pain studies at McGill University. He reveals that men and women have different sensitivity levels to pain and that “more women suffer from chronic pain than men.” There’s been an assumption that pain is processed the same in both males and females. Now, scientists are discovering that this may not be the case after all.
“The realization that the biological basis for pain between men and women could be so fundamentally different raises important research and ethical questions if we want to reduce suffering,” Mogill says.
The longstanding belief on pain is that it’s transmitted from the site of an injury, or inflammation, through the nervous system using an immune system cell known as “microglia.” This is only present in male mice, as it appeared in the study. Interference with the function of “microglia” in different ways blocked the pain in male mice, but wasn’t seen in female mice. A pain alarm in female mice is sounded by “T cells.”
Co-author Michael Salter, of Toronto University, explains that fully understanding how pain works within the body and sex differences is “absolutely essential as we design the next generation of more sophisticated, targeted pain medications.” He cites the study on mice as support for his argument.
“We believe that mice have very similar nervous systems to humans, especially for a basic evolutionary function like pain, so these findings tell us there are important questions raised for human pain drug development.”
Should “his ‘n’ hers” painkillers be created?
Still, scientists have also felt that men and women suffer the same, but handle it differently. Researchers voiced their conclusions on the differences men and women experience when it comes to pain in a report posted on MedicineNet.com. Linda LeResche, ScD, a professor of oral medicine at the University of Washington, in Seattle, says women have a “lower” tolerance for pain.
“The laboratory research seems to indicate that for many kinds — but not all kinds — of stimuli, women have a lower tolerance for pain. There is some experimental research that suggests the pain modulation systems between men and women may be different. Females may also have an additional system that uses estrogen.”
Another researcher — Robert Gear — an assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of California, in San Francisco, seconds that opinion.
“There are [so many] overlays of societal and cultural norms and other factors that go into the reporting of pain that it may not have a biological basis at all. It certainly could have a biological basis, but there is no way to test it so far.”
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