Since June is Men’s Health Month and manly Lou Ferrigno is gracing the cover of our summer issue, we want to put the spotlight on men. When dealing with chronic pain, do men cope differently than women and what do they have to say about their experiences?
The differences between men and woman
Many experts agree that men are slower to recover, less likely to seek help for pain, and more likely to allow pain to control their lives than women. Additionally, men are less likely to use coping skills, support, and distraction to deal with their pain.
Not surprisingly men seem to have more tolerance for pain. Research in this area yields fascinating results. For example, male experimental animals injected with estrogen, a female hormone, appear to have a lower tolerance for pain – the addition of estrogen appears to lower the pain threshold. Similarly, the presence of testosterone, a male hormone, appears to elevate tolerance for pain in female mice: the animals are simply able to withstand pain better.
Maybe we don’t hear about men with chronic pain as much as women, because women are more likely to have chronic pain. Research shows that the prevalence of any chronic pain condition is 45% among women versus 31% among men.
To understand how men cope with pain, we reached out to Keith Orsini, 41 year survivor CRPS and founder of American RSDHope. Here’s what he had to share:
“I get out of my car, having parked in a handicap spot, hang my placard and endure the inevitable glares from people who think, ‘He looks fine. Why is he parking there? He isn’t in a wheelchair or even using a cane!’ Chronic pain is invisible. They can’t tell that today my CRPS is screaming at me with every step I take or understand that because it is raining my pain level is even higher today than normal.
I believe women and men handle living in and with pain differently. Having talked to tens of thousands of CRPS patients over the last twenty years of both sexes, I see both sides.
I believe that women handle living with it better, because they are more able and willing to talk about it with other people. At the same time, I think that men are sometimes taken more seriously by physicians when complaining about chronic pain. We men haven’t learned how to communicate our feelings very well, especially our feelings of failure. And make no mistake about it, most men feel getting a chronic illness and ending up disabled, as many of us do, is a sign of failure when we can no longer provide for our families.
Also, men still define themselves by what they do whereas women define themselves by who they are with – their loved ones, families, friends, and who they are as a person. Men have spent years being defined by how well they do their job and when it is taken away they are simply lost.
Don’t believe me? Next time you go to a gathering, listen to the chatter as people come in the door. Men will be asked ‘What do you do for a living?’ Whereas women will be asked, ‘How are you doing? How’s your family?’
Since it’s so important for people living with chronic pain to connect with others who are dealing with similar issues, I strongly encourage the guys especially to learn how to share your feeling and your story.”
What these famous men have to say about pain
You may remember many of these celebrities from our magazine covers dating back to 2008. Their wisdom, advice, and stories help us understand the male perspective to pain.
Read about Dan Caver’s story of coping with chronic pain from our latest issue: What No One Told Me about Chronic Pain.
To learn more about men and women feel pain differently, here are some interesting articles:
- Men vs. Women on Pain: Who Hurts More?
- How Men and Women Feel Pain Differently
- Studies Suggest Men Handle Pain Better
For overall wellness, here are Top 10 Health Tips for Men.