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Pain Management Health Center

If Women Are From Venus, They Brought Their Pain With Them

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Fillingim, adds, however, that when it comes to reporting pain, society is more accepting of women doing it than men. He says he tested this societal difference in a laboratory experiment in which the male and female volunteers worked with either very physically attractive investigators or less-attractive investigators of the opposite sex. The male response was dependent on the investigator -- men reported less pain when the investigator was attractive, while women's responses were the same regardless.

Mogil says that while this may be true for humans, "I don't think that the male mice ... are trying to be 'macho' or that the female mice are trying for demure." Mogil says that his animal experiments suggest that the experience of pain is gender-specific in several species.

"And this is what is really exciting," says Mogil. The male-female pain research has already turned up evidence that a class of painkillers called kappa-agonists is actually much more effective among women than among men.

Harden says he expects that there will be other painkillers that will also demonstrate gender-specific properties, but he says that will require more research because "when these drugs were developed, the clinical studies were only done in young men. We have no clinical trial data on women."

Meanwhile, Harden says there is enough scientific information to conclude that women are not more pain tolerant simply because "it is the women who have the babies, so they must be tougher" nor are they "wimps because they complain more about pain." Rather, he says women simply are different than men.

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