Women experience far more chronic pain and report their pain early and more often than men.
“Yet they are typically not believed and or treated by their healthcare professionals,” according to Cynthia Toussaint, a chronic pain sufferer and founder of For Grace, which sponsors an annual conference for Women in Pain in Los Angeles.
Toussant’s comment come in the wake of a troubling story in the National Pain Report that shows death from painkillers are rising sharply among women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report that showed that while men are still more likely than women to die from painkillers, the gap is narrowing quickly.
The CDC said in the Vital Signs report that nearly 48,000 women died from painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010. During that time, the number of fatal overdoses among women rose by 400 percent, compared to 265 percent in men
Toussaint has had Complex Regional Pain Syndrome for 30 years. She founded her organization in 2002 to raise awareness about the disease, and later included fibromyalgia and other over-lapping chronic pain conditions.
The “Women in Pain” topic is increasingly getting more attention from those who treat pain.
“The under treatment of women in pain is a huge concern,” says Dr. Dan Bennett of Denver, who is Chief Medical Officer for the National Pain Report.
She thinks the whole issue of how people even describe their pain is too subjective.
“One person’s 4 is another person’s 10 and vice versa,” Edwards wrote. “So I think the inherent subjectivity of pain, as well as the inherent subjectivity of the health care professional, who is then interpreting your perception of pain, makes it incredibly challenging.”
For patient advocates like Toussaint, the answer is not more pills but better education.
“We need pain management training for healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical industry needs to be held accountable for its part in this crisis,” she told National Pain Report.
CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, believes opioid painkillers are being over prescribed and some doctors are not adequately trained on how and when to prescribe them. He counts himself as one of them.
“I can tell you that when I went to medical school the one thing they told me about pain was is if you give a patient in pain an opiate painkiller they will not become addicted. And that was completely wrong. So we have a real need to better understand and make sure we use them only when necessary,” said Frieden
“There’s things we can do to protect women and reduce the burden of prescription opiates, first is to ensure all health care providers women recognize can be at risk for prescription painkiller overdose, it’s not just a problem among men, which is how many think of it currently.”
It’s a complicated issue, one that we will continue to cover.