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Women perceive pain more than men

Beautiful young woman looking depressed

Perception of pain in women and men

The differences between men and women have always been the subject of scientific study. Male human beings differ greatly from female human beings, both anatomically speaking and emotionally and psychologically. According to some scholars, men and women would also have a different approach to physical pain, with female individuals having a greater sensitivity than male subjects. In fact, according to some data, the percentages referring to men’s and women’s perception of pain are very different. In women it ranges from 45.6% to 56% while in men it ranges from 32% to 44%. These differences become even more significant under the age of 18 or in individuals over 65, where the percentage for women is 40.1 percent versus 23.7 percent for men.

Backing up these data is gender medicine, in the words of Marina Rizzo, a neurologist at the United Hospitals of Palermo, according to whom, “There are many differences between genders and many factors that condition the different perception between males and females, particularly for severe pain.” According to the doctor, among the main factors that would influence pain perception would be sex hormones: “From clinical studies it seems that testosterone has a protective action on pain. The association between decreased androgen concentration and chronic pain has been seen while estrogen hormone use increases pain perception. Variations in pain symptoms during the menstrual cycle are then known.”

Pain receptors

Corroborating Dr. Rizzo’s thesis are the words of Dr. Diego Fornasari, a pharmacologist at the University of Milan, who highlights the differences at the biological level between men and women in the mechanisms involved in the regulation and transmission of pain at the level of synapses, or connections that allow the transmission of impulses from peripheral nerve fibers to those carrying the impulse to the central nervous system. Dr. Fornasari explains, “This synapse is absolutely critical because this is where the history of a painful stimulus can be greatly altered, for example, in processes of pain chronification. We have descending pathways that modulate the activity of this synapse that act like semaphores that pass impulses. Out of one thousand impulses two hundred may pass or one thousand may pass or, in chronicization, the one thousand impulses may be perceived as ten thousand.” This control mechanism, according to the expert, is influenced by the area of the brain involved in emotional life, called the limbic cortex, and it is precisely the different approach to emotionality between men and women that also consequently differentiates their perception of pain. For Fornasari in fact, “There are definite neuronal connections between the areas of our emotional life and pain. Here’s that if I have a complex, disturbed emotional life these descending pathways might work less well.”


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