It’s estimated that 6 – 10 percent of people in the United States have fibromyalgia. This chronic pain disorder impacts millions of men and women of all ages and ethnicities all around the world—but fibromyalgia is decidedly more prevalent in women, as is the case with a number of other pain disorders, such as temporomandibular joint disorder, headache, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Studies in both humans and animals have shown that pain is experienced differently by males and females. In general, females (both animal and human) are more sensitive to experimental pain, and women have more pain-related clinical conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
In addition, studies have suggested that cultural factors may also play a role. For example, it is generally thought that feeling pain is “okay” or even expected among women, and that an emotional response is socially acceptable. On the other hand, traditional male roles in society dictate ignoring and not reporting pain, which in turn may translate into feeling anxious, and depressed.
Studies have shown important gender differences in various clinical characteristics of fibromyalgia. For example, women experience significantly more common fatigue, morning fatigue, all-over hurting, irritable bowel syndrome, total and number of symptoms. Women also typically have significantly more tender points. On the other hand, overall pain severity, global severity, and physical functioning are not significantly different between the sexes, nor are such psychologic factors as anxiety, stress, and depression. The mechanisms of gender differences in fibromyalgia are not fully understood, but (as prominent fibromyalgia researcher Dr. Mohamed Yunus states) they are likely to involve interaction between biology, psychology, and sociocultural factors … [read more]