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Why are women more sensitive than men to pain?

Howard S. Smith
Pain Medicine
There are many theories about a woman’s greater sensitivity to pain, including speculation that it may be the result of a relative imbalance of serotonin, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the body. Serotonin deficiency has been implicated in increased pain, sleep and eating disorders, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps, and depression -- all problems common in women. In fact, women experience depression two to three times more often than men do, which researchers believe is related to the lower rate of serotonin synthesis in women. Women are also two to three times more likely to have migraine headaches than men are, and these headaches seem to strike whenever estrogen, the neurotransmitter serotonin, and beta-endorphins are low. Likewise, women are six times more likely to have fibromyalgia, an arthritis-related syndrome that results in deep muscle pain and fatigue. More women than men get rheumatoid arthritis, a serious autoimmune disease that results in chronic joint inflammation and pain. In addition, the female sex wins again, having the most cases of osteoarthritis, the “wear-and-tear” type of degenerative arthritis that causes chronic pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.