Approximately 100 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic pain, with women disproportionately affected by it as compared to men. According to an article on The Wall Street Journal, the “prevalence of any chronic pain condition was 45% among women, versus 31% among men.” Women are more likely to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraines, neuropathic pain, and osteoarthritis. Women have also been shown to be more sensitive to pain, with lower pain thresholds and tolerances.
On the Day of Women’s Health, it’s important to spotlight one of the more severe pain conditions that disproportionately affect women: fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is difficult to classify, because there are no identifiable causes of the disorder. It is characterized by widespread and chronic pain that is accompanied by sleep issues, weakness, fatigue, cognitive problems, and depression. According to the American College of Rheumatology’s guidelines, fibromyalgia is diagnosed when a patient has:
- A history of widespread bodily pain that has lasted for more than three months
- Pain that is located in all four quadrants of the body
- Pain in 11 out of 18 tender points on the body where muscles attach to joints, such as the shoulder blades or knees
- Clinical symptoms that include fatigue, stiffness, depression, anxiety, tenderness, and sleep issues
Unfortunately, women suffer more from fibromyalgia than men. It’s been found that approximately 75-90% of all people with fibromyalgia are women and they are 1.6% more likely than men to have it. Over 12 million people in the U.S. suffer from fibromyalgia and its cost–from missed day of work, lost productivity, and medical costs–may be as high as $14 billion every year. Moreso, since this is a difficult condition both to diagnose and treat, the health care costs for somebody with fibromyalgia can be three times greater than individuals with other pain conditions, often due to the time and energy needed for diagnosis.
Once a person has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, however, there are some treatment methods that have been shown to be effective. Often, a team of medical professionals will orchestrate treatment plans aimed at improving the overall quality of life of the person with fibromyalgia. These plans often include the use of medications, such non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and anti-depressants; physical therapy; exercise; chiropractic care; and alternative practices, such as yoga and biofeedback.
For a closer look at fibromyalgia’s risk factors, symptoms, and treatments, click here for Nevada Pain’s in-depth article on this pain condition. For more information about how women are impacted by chronic pain conditions, read Judy Foreman’s excellent Wall Street Journal article.