Hey Women, The Pain Is Not All in Your Head

Hey Women, The Pain Is Not All in Your Head

By Ed Coghlan.

There’s a powerful op-ed in the Los Angeles Times  that all pain patients—particularly women—might read. It may sound familiar.

The piece is written by Emily Dwass who recounts her case that took four years and several doctors before she learned that I had a meningioma, a nonmalignant tumor that had grown so much it became difficult to treat.

Dwass wrote: The “all in your head” misdiagnosis is still amazingly common. Doctors dole it out for neurological, autoimmune and even cardiac problems; they sometimes refer women for psychological evaluations before addressing their physical symptoms.

When I read the piece, I thought immediately of checking in with Gracie Gean Bagosy Young, a chronic pain survivor (or warrior as she describes herself) and wondered what she thought of the story.

It brought her to tears.

Gracie, who has Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) told us that the average person with CRPS visits seven doctors before receiving a diagnosis—and she reminded me that is IF they actually get diagnosed.

Many go undiagnosed, are told it’s in their head, visit a psychiatrist.

Or, as Gracie pointed out, “they give up or worse”.

“In the pain realm, I have learned hard lessons. It’s extremely important to see a pain management specialist,” she said, saying that family practice doctors simply don’t have the experience or, often, the time to adequately treat chronic pain patients.

For Terri Lewis, Ph.D., another frequent contributor to the National Pain Report, who studies and teaches on the issue—the “it’s all in your head” syndrome is “dangerous and leads to no treatment, undertreatment, misdiagnosis.”

By the way, in case you want to know more, there is one group that is devoted to the issue of women in pain.

For Grace’s Women in Pain Project is an awareness and education campaign that aims to promote better wellness for women challenged by chronic pain and to bring to light the disparity they face in the assessment and treatment of their chronic pain.

What about you?

Share your story if something like this has happened to you.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 12 comments for this article
  1. Signe Topai at 11:52 am

    I had a Doctor in Santa Rosa say the same thing. I lived with severe pain for yours. Turns out I had an appendix ready to abrupt, 2 serve hernias, myfascial pain disorder and Fibromyalgia. I wonder if I would of been treated in time for
    appendicitis and hernias, I wouldn’t have the pain disorders. Plus , the physically ability to still teach physical Education. My pain disorders have made me 100% disabled!

  2. Deborah babcock at 1:39 pm

    I’m really sick of doctors telling me I need depression pills when I talk about my pain. I’m not depressed. I’m in chronic pain..i have migraines,burcitis in both my hips,I have 3 buldgi g disks in my lower back,anxiety so bad that I tear up my fingers,diabetes that causes foot pain leg pain etc, etc. I have never been a drug addict and I’m treated like a junkie and piss tested randomly only for them to have wasted mine and others tax dollars for all of the tests to come back neg in 2 minutes…my rights as a human being to have pain medication has been stomped on over and over. The oaths these doct it’s take is a big fat [edit] lie !! Oh and I have insomnia cause I’m in pain all night long and can’t get good sleep. !!!

  3. Lynn Saunders at 9:40 am

    A family member; intelligent, blond, blue-eyed beauty was repeatedly told “it’s all in your head”. Years of being treated as a faux mental patient, leaving her to waste away from her untreated “real” diseases.

    As it turns out, an undiagnosed – untreated autoimmune disease(s) left her with acute vasculitis affecting her brain and central nervous system. And, near death…Her life has been saved by two empathic doctors who listened; Dr Ronald Andiman and Dr Arash Horizon! Life Savers, conscious compassionate human beings who took a woman seriously!

    Heartfelt love and gratitude to two men who cared enough to listen…🙏🏻

  4. Michael G Langley, MD at 9:18 am

    As I told my patients, and I know myself, “Cut off the head and the body has no more pain!” If the spinal cord is injured at the c-4 level, one would have a similar effect. But, even spinal cord injury patients can often become chronic pain patients! My spinal cord injury gives me a neuropathy. My neurologist bragged that he has no on on narcotics for it’s treatment…I don’t consult him any more! I don’t consult the pain doctor who wrote to Medicare to tell them that I had exhausted all other forms of treatment and needed a dorsal column stimulator. He lied, at risk to my life! I recently found that the use of a TENS unit can control the severe tingling in the left foot! I had used them in post op patients, to control the local wound pain! I delayed trying one because I thought that it might increase the tingling. It was a pleasant surprise! The TENS unit did “cut off my head”, by hiding the nerve impulses (Melzack and Walls gate theory) before they were transmitted to my brain…(;-P

  5. Ibin at 7:59 am

    My wife, of 4 decades, was diagnosed with fibromyalgea and lymes disease, over 10 years ago. It was very simply observed, knowing her from our youth, together for 30 years when she started coming home from work and nearly collapsing into sleep. It was not a typical action of her energy, her desire to be a good parent, and her general, gentle nature.

    She was a “champion” body builder in her mid 20’s. Not an overboard competitor but, a determned lady with the basic desire to be better at what she chose to do than the other competitor. She did not work out at a gym, she did it at home. She has never seen a physical enhancing drug, steroids, or any other means to compete but did it with proper diet, and determination. This is truth. She did not “neglect” our children, she was a Mother…..and parent first. She won her first competition, the first she competed in and was made an offer to turn professional. The choice was hers. She chose not to be a professional body builder, she was a Mother, spouse, and parent first, for life.

    As stated with so many diagnosis attempts, your vitals are great, it must be a virus. A virus that has stricken a non smoker, a non alcohol user, a non drug user and never had indulged in any vices. Sickness is possible with any and all healthy people but, it did take several months and five different physicians until finally, a doctor that had seen her symptoms before, properly diagnosed her. There is no cure for fibro and lymes disease, only treatment. Treatment that has been damned, with extreme insufficient medication, by those who do not have to endure what many women with neuropathy type illness must endure..

    Her illnesses were life changing. She still; endures pain, constant fatigue but, her persona has never changed. With whatever level of pain and fatigue she is enduring on a particular day. She never lets it interfere with being a Mother, spouse, or good friend. She, like many other women are amazing to me with her ability to put on a smile, never take her discomfort out on any one else, yet the authoritarians on pain have decided, they know what is her best……treatment. I nor she, could never wish the same level of pain on anyone, even those who know best. Pain generating conditions of the body are real, not just generated by social, spiritual, or psychological anomalies in the mind.

    I admire her courage and she never ceases to impress me with her thoughtfulness, her unselfishness, and her love of all people. IF, the authoritarians were or could be influenced by women, the people with constant pain would not be in the current hopeless feeling that dot.gov has place many people of both genders into.

  6. Maureen at 6:59 am

    Last Nov. I saw a Neurosurgeon (referred to by my Pain Doc and after an MRI showed a new dysfunction in my spine). I have had 3 lumbar fusions in the past and was now having right leg weakness and pain. I drove 1 1/2 hrs. to see him and sat waiting another almost 2 hours to see him! I was riddled in pain to say the least.
    This doc barely listened yet talked with me. He looked tired and angry from the moment I saw him.
    He put my films up on the screen and said ‘I don’t even see a fusion in your spine, I think you just need to see a psychiatrist.’!!!!! What?!!!!!!
    I knew that second that I had wasted that day, looking for help.
    He then got up and walked out!
    I had my case manager nurse with me and she couldn’t believe it either!
    Afterwards, I was in tears in my car and then had to drive all the way home in commuter traffic! The whole experience was disgusting in my opinion.
    I am ‘disabled’ 13 yrs now (and a former nurse of 32 yrs before an auto accident changed my life), I have been through a lot, have seen a lot of doctors aong my way and therefore I saw right through his behavior.
    Regardless, I was greatly offended and took it all personally and it took a lot of self work re: the emotional effects from that day to come to realize that it was alllll ‘his issues’ that day, NOT MINE!!
    I also went through similar issues with my spine surgeon years ago. But, I’ll save that story for another time….
    The positive is that over the years of dealing with lame practitioners…
    I have become a strong advocate for myself :~)
    My motto:There’s always a ‘positive out of a negative’ if you just look for it.

  7. Mark Ibsen at 5:51 am

    It’s all begins in language.
    I would usually affirm for my offended and betrayed patients from either gender, both
    Or none,
    That
    “Of course it’s all in your head”
    That is where we actually record our pain.
    But then I would ad:
    But maybe it’s actually
    In your body,
    Acting as an antennae for pain,
    As
    A spiritual or
    Soulful expression of grief.

    People seem to get this as a concept
    And
    The ones who have taken on their grief ( as I have also)
    Get better.
    My recent read of
    David Hawkins’ book
    Healing and Recovery:
    We must engage our betrayals
    Resentments
    And grief
    In order to resolve the residuals of our suffering.
    It’s
    So
    Hard.
    Especially if we are in agony.
    Thank you Gracie.

  8. Brian Olear at 5:21 am

    I also have an meningioma among other issue’s which cause constant pain….though I’m male the meningioma in my middle back encumbrences 75% of the disc it is in.

  9. connie at 4:51 am

    I spent 25 years being told that my abdominal pain was in my head, I hated being a woman, just wanted attention, and just wanted drugs. After countless doctors all over the country, several laparoscopic surgery and one major surgery where my abdomin was laid open I was finally diagnosed with severe endometriosis that probably began prepuberty. At the age of 32 I had a radical hysterectomy. Ladies believe your body!
    I now suffer from several pain issues and once again I am hearing those same things being said about a lot of my pain only this time the doctors who are too lazy to find a real diagnosis have the government on their side to refuse to treat the PAINFUL symptoms that they refuse to even diagnose. Heck now I can’t get treated for the obvious things like degenerative disc disease!

  10. Judy Wisdom at 4:41 am

    I have experienced the same thing. I had a lot of joint and muscle pain that would completely incapacitate me. I finally got sick of my GP and went to a Naturopath. We discovered that I had a sensitivity to certain foods. The standard, wheat, soy, corn, etc. I wondered how many more people are using a Naturopath instead of GP’s. I have always though they were awesome.
    Judy.

  11. grey at 3:48 am

    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-ol-le-patient-care-imbalance-20170730-story.html

    Followed by a comment by a male doctor who disregards her experience and offers statistics to disprove it.

    The statistics don’t tell the whole story. Or even break the surface. As a woman, I personally experienced mistreatment and unprofessional behavior, and it wasn’t always from male doctor’s, either. Oh, and I am not only female. I am fat. So I am doubly a non-person at times. Excluding doctors whose unprofessional behavior was aimed at my waist size, lime the gyne who said “No one is ever surprised to see the fat woman’s obituary,” I was treated to an unsolicited history lesson about women and hysteria and was offered my choice from a buffet offering of anti-depressants for muscle spasms. I was told that I was lucky that a doctor would help me because “most doctors would run away from depressed patients.” My pain was under-treated and once I was finally prescribed tramadol, I was able to function at work and pace myself through my very neglected home. I have had three doctors paternalisticly decide not to tell me my diagnoses, so I make a habit of getting copies of my medical records. Many times, these records say that doctor’s had extensive discussions with me that never occurred. (cover a.. much, docs?)

    Those interactions are not going to show up in Mr. Doctor’s smartly stated statistics. The patient experience is not invalid!!!!

    I recently left a Doctor’s office because he argued with me over how MY BODY responded to prednisone. I had simply asked that he split the (same) dose because if I took a single dose in the morning, I struggled to breathe at night. I was seated. He stood up, put his hands on his hips and said, “I’m the expert!” This doctor was planning to do an invasive breathing test which would aggravate my breathing difficulties and I was supposed to TRUST him when he would not listen to me about how my body responded to a medication??? No. I never walked out of an appointment before. It was hard, and embarrassing.

    The other thing that Mr. Doctor’s statistics don’t show is that men may not seek treatment for many symptoms because of ideas of masculinity and sucking it up or just not being of the habit of seeing a doctor (my dad, who declares himself healthy and invincible but his favorite foods are burgers and pizzas) . So, women may get more care and more tests because men aren’t showing up until they are at the ER or the morgue.

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