Women experience chronic pain with greater frequency and intensity than men and are more likely to suffer migraines, irritable bowel disorders or to suffer fibromyalgia, among other pathologies. The psychologist of the Psychiatry Unit of the Casa de Salud Hospital, Tony Crespo, assures that “in many cases, women can be between 200 and 800% more likely to develop various painful health conditions.”
The reason is not unique, although their immune system plays an important role.In this sense, they are more likely to have inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis as well as changes in their immune system that lead to other conditions such as fibromyalgia .
Women’s hormonal system is another reason why women experience pain more frequently since hormonal changes, especially estrogens in premenopause, can lead to chronic pain.
Treat emotional distress
Another factor that contributes to a greater pain affection in women is not physical but psychological in nature and “for this reason it is very important to treat it from a multidisciplinary point of view,” says Dr. Crespo.
Pain is defined as a “negative sensory and emotional experience”, hence the importance of addressing this issue to reduce emotional distress .
In this sense, women are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than men, both risk factors for greater severity of pain in chronic pain conditions. “A fact-which, in the opinion of Dr. Tony Crespo-indicates to us the need to act emotionally on this damage and seek an evolutionary protective mechanism so that women learn ways to counteract it.” “The importance of good psychological pain management for women offers a way to reduce suffering and gain pain control,” she adds.
5 tips to reduce pain
The Psychiatry Unit of the Hospital Casa de Salud in Valencia offers 5 basic tips to reduce both physical and emotional pain :
- Cultivate occasional relaxationas a “pocket medicine” in case of feeling distressed by pain. Using the relaxation response – including diaphragmatic breathing, meditation, mantras, and progressive muscle relaxation – helps counteract stress and negativity, counteracting the physiological effects of stress and pain, and promoting pain processing by the nervous system.
- Ensure good personal care. Women with chronic pain have a harder time taking care of themselves because, in part, they feel guilty about how pain affects their relationships. While this pattern of behavior may be understandable but not helpful to the patient, it can lead to worsening pain of its own.
- Build a connection between stress and pain. Experience shows that women tend to have greater responses to stress than men, and these responses make pain more severe.
It is vitally important to identify stress points – big or small – in daily life and work to reduce them. For example, leaving early for a date can provide the relaxation you need to feel relaxed while driving, rather than feeling hectic.
- Readjust expectations. You may well need to adjust your expectations including your own body image and accept and value what you have and what each one is like. Acceptance is often really difficult, and often leads to depression. But when circumstances are accepted (without the need for that to mean that you resign yourself with what you have), they transform. So it is important to work with a specialized psychologist who can help you through that stressful point where you are stuck.
- Generate self-pity. Self-compassion is nothing more than learning to love yourself and treat each other with love and affection just as we treat our best friends. It is associated with decreased anger and pain severity aftercare. Self-pity is really effective and important if you are hard on yourself for “not living up” to your expectations, if you tend to punish yourself. Learning to be kind to yourself can be the best pain relief gift you can give yourself.