Getting Real: The Women in Pain Conference

Getting Real: The Women in Pain Conference

Hundreds of women, caregivers and health care professionals will descend upon Los Angeles on September 13th for the 6th annual Women in Pain Conference.  The theme this year is “Getting Real — Transforming Hidden Truths into Positive Action”.

There is a gender gap in how pain is treated, according to many experts, who say women tend to be shorted when it comes to treatment. A NY Times op ed earlier this year written by Laurie Edwards outlines the issue.

138The Los Angeles Conference is the brainchild of Cynthia Toussaint, who wrote the book Battle for Grace, which chronicles her intense, 30-year battle with chronic pain and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Since writing the book, Toussaint has become a type of missionary for other women.

“Women are approaching me to ‘confess’ the behaviors they’ve never shared. I wrote the book to start conversations about the ‘unspeakables’ we women in pain will go to in order to survive,” said Toussaint. “This conference is a natural extension of that dialogue and I expect it to be our most empowering event to date.”

Living with chronic pain — whether it stems from fibromyalgia, arthritis, back pain or some other condition — challenges every facet of an individual’s life. How one copes can be life changing–good or bad.

“The sad truth is that women in pain are undertreated by the healthcare system,” said Dr. Dan Bennett who is Chief Medical Officer for the National Pain Report. “This conference is important for increasing awareness of treating this largest demographic in chronic pain.”

Dr. Bennett’s assertion is not new. An academic report from 2001 outlines the issues in an article entitled “The Girl Who Cried Pain: A Bias Against Women in the Treatment of Pain” authored by Diane E. Hoffmann and Anita J. Tarzian.

This year’s conference will  have a live worldwide webcast and a twitter (#wipconf) feed where folks can ask questions and give comments to the presenters. Here’s a link to the conference highlights.

“When a woman’s life is turned upside down due to the torture of constant pain and fatigue, like mine was, we lose ourselves at first. Many of us end up making coping missteps that hurt ourselves and others. With time, wisdom and re-invention, we can turn our coping choices around which puts us on the path to wellness,” said Toussaint.

Toussaint, a former actress and dancer who has battled chronic pain for over two decades, also formed the nonprofit called For Grace, which is devoted to ensuring the ethical and equal treatment of all women in pain.

The National Pain Report plans to attend the Women in Pain Conference and will be reporting on issues raised there.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Celeste Cooper at 10:29 am

    For Grace speaks up for women in pain. The Institute of Medicine report states that women are discriminated against when it comes to pain treatment. Thank you for supporting the efforts of many pain advocates. For Grace in grace.

  2. John Quintner, Physician in Pain Medicine at 7:53 pm

    My clinical experience of the “RSI” phenomenon in Australia during the 1980s convinced me of the power of negative stereotyping of women in pain and the subsequent process of their stigmatization by our society.

    In my opinion, mainstream Medicine must share a considerable portion of the blame for this sad episode, where many women in pain were left to experience the not so tender mercies of third party insurers.

    One of the legacies of this stigmatization has been the removal of “pain” as an assessable impairment under the various systems of workers’ compensation in Australia.

    Paradoxically, psychological and psychiatric disabilities have been re-badged as “impairments” and are therefore considered to be assessable (even though such assessment depends upon where sufferers sit on a scale of disability).