Women Treated for Pain Differently

Treatments for women in pain must differ from men's treatment, and often is, according to a study by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Pain in women is often more common and mismanaged, according to research published by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

The researchers conducted a review of literature relevant to women and pain, which included studies on treatments for labor pains, phantom limb pain, post surgery pain, menstrual pain, back pain, pregnancy pain, and fibromyalgia pain. The investigators then issued the Women’s Pain Update to raise awareness for treatment options regarding women to control both acute and chronic pain. Women are encouraged to see pain specialists to choose the proper treatment for each unique patient. The goals of treatments are to get pain under enough control so that a patient can regain their own management of daily lifestyle, such as physical therapy, exercise, and other lifestyle adjustments. Treatments for the various forms of pain can range from medications, injections, biofeedback, and acupuncture.

The authors determined that several types of pain can be eased with the help of music, yoga, and rose oil. The investigators also learned that opioids are often prescribed inappropriately. Lastly, they found that the type of anesthesia during breast cancer surgery is associated with how quickly and comfortably women recover from operations.

“It’s fairly clean cut when someone has phantom pain after a limb amputation, but it’s often overlooked when a woman has the same pain after a mastectomy or lumpectomy and she suffers unnecessarily,” Donna-Ann Thomas, MD, a member of ASA’s Committee on Pain Medicine, explained in a press release. “I can’t tell you the number of women I see how have been told they just have to live with the pain.”

The investigators found:

  • Music eases labor pains. According to a study of 156 women in labor, of whom half listened to music during labor and half did not, music listeners reported less pain and anxiety during labor and required less pain relieving methods after giving birth.
  • Nerve block and regional anesthesia was better for breast surgery. Less pain, less nausea and vomiting, less morphine taken, and leaving the hospital sooner was done by women who had nerve block combined with regional anesthesia during breast cancer surgery. Women who had the same procedure under general anesthesia did not fare as well.
  • Women report more post surgery pain than men, according to a study of intense post surgery pain. Women reported intense pain more often after 30 different types of surgery, which ranged from appendectomy to knee replacements.
  • Rose oil eases menstrual pain, according to a study of 75 women. When 25 women massaged rose oil on their abdomens to ease menstrual pain, they had significantly less pain. A group of 25 women used unscented almond oil and 25 did nothing for their pain, and no change was reported in those groups.
  • Yoga relieved back pain in a 12 week study of women who completed a yoga class. Women who did not do yoga had worsened pain after 12 weeks.
  • 1 in 7 women were prescribed opioids during pregnancy, the researchers found; the unborn baby may be harmed during this practice.
  • Fibromyalgia pain affects women and men different, according to a study of 747 female and 48 male fibromyalgia patients. In the study, men were more likely to cope with pain by avoiding activity, while no differences in the amount of pain were reported among genders.