In May on the Nevada Inside Pain blog, we took a close look at what pain (and its treatments) mean for many different types of people living with it.

Women in pain

By far, we spent most of our time this month examining what pain means to women. This wasn’t only a summary look at the types of pain most commonly experienced by women, but rather, how women experience pain, how women in pain are viewed by society, and how healthcare services are letting women down.

Consider this: Even though women are more likely to be in pain, men still make up the bulk of research subjects. As we noted in our “Everybody Hurts, But Not All Are Equal: Women In Pain” post:

Researchers tend to favor men in their studies, leaving women out in all areas of treatment and diagnosis. This can result in medicines that are effective for men but less so for women. Even in animal studies, researchers tend to use male animals instead of female animals. A study published in Neuroscience & Behavioral Reviews found that in 2009, male animals were used in 80% of the almost 2,000 published animal studies. Researchers also chose fewer than 45% female animals in studies of depression, despite the fact that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. The same bias occurs in clinical trials. In 2006, women made up fewer than 25% of patients in 46 clinical trials conducted in that year.”

While this may seem a somewhat trivial point, what it actually means is that pain treatments are not tested for and by women before going to market. This creates extreme safety risks. We noted in the same post that “eight of every ten drugs pulled from the market due to safety concerns were pulled specifically due to health risks and safety concerns for women.”

Women are also given more than their needed dosage of the common flu vaccination, and are routinely prescribed opioids at a higher rate than men. As we wrote:

“Increasing the focus on women’s healthcare is a crucial, basic human right for women… This lack of attention to women in clinical research and trials combined with lack of diagnosis and improper medication is an international issue that affects every aspect of the world we live in.”

These trends are mimicked within the healthcare profession as a whole. In STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), women hold a much lower percentage of jobs as compared to men, even though they make up 47% of the workforce. While our post on the subject touched on the exact differences in jobs held in these industries, we also discussed eight of the pervasive myths holding women back from STEM careers and how we can actually address these challenges proactively.

Because of these discrepancies among both patients and professionals, we were thrilled to see a woman take center stage in a movie about chronic pain: Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston. As we discussed in our post about the movie this month, however, critics were quick to miss many of the underlying points in the movie. We wrote:

“Reviews of the movie have focused on Claire’s lack of make-up, scars, and abrasive personality rather than focusing on the harsh realities of life with chronic pain that are portrayed in the film. This does a disservice to the already-rare, mainstream look into daily chronic pain.”

Chronic fatigue syndrome patients

Speaking of chronic pain patients, some of the most misunderstood patients are those who suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Day on May 12 allowed us the opportunity to shed some light on this condition. CFS is:

[C]haracterized by fatigue that lasts for more than six months, but fatigue is not the same thing as being tired. Tiredness often has a clearly traceable cause, such as extra hours at work or caring for a newborn. In addition, chronic fatigue is usually not relieved with rest and often worsens with physical or mental activity.”

Thankfully, researchers are beginning to study this condition seriously. We highlighted four studies in our “Recent Research About Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” post that are beginning to unravel what causes CFS and how we can better treat its symptoms. Our “Treatment Options For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” post went into even more detail on the interventional and lifestyle treatments that may provide some relief from CFS symptoms. Some options include:

  • Vitamins and minerals for rest and energy
  • Antidepressants
  • Prescription sleeping medication, when needed
  • Graded exercise therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • A mix of other complementary and alternative medical treatments

Parents living in pain

With Mother’s Day just passed and Father’s Day around the corner, we also discussed some of the unique challenges that parents in pain deal with. As we wrote:

“Many parents take for granted things like nursing, lifting a child into the air, and even walking down the street, but parents with chronic pain can struggle with those simple actions. Even getting out of bed in the morning to make breakfast and pack lunch before a child leaves for school may be impossible. Physical contact – as when a child comes barreling into your arms from across a playground or squeezes you as hard as they can in a moment of happiness – can produce heart-stopping, incapacitating pain.”

With these challenges in mind, we gave some advice on ways to help your child understand your pain, while also taking care of yourself. These included:

  • Make your routine part of the household routine
  • Do the best you can, and recognize that “best” changes daily
  • Talk to your kids
  • Remember: two-year-olds will be two-year-olds
  • Get support
  • Be present

If you’re a parent in pain, we encourage you to take a look at some of the suggestions in that post and add some of your own tips in the comments.

How you can learn more 

If you live with pain, it’s a never-ending quest to find answers for the symptoms and challenges that face you. An in-person support group can help you find people who suffer from the same condition that you do. We also provide as much information as we can on this blog. Two posts, in particular, were geared towards helping you learn about the most cutting-edge research about pain and where you can learn more.

  • Self-Education For Chronic Pain Patients“: From online courses to TED talks to Pinterest, there are so many free, online resources for you to learn more about pain.
  • New Research Into How The Brain Processes Pain“: Did you know that the anticipation of pain increased the perception of it? Or that the longer pain occurs, the more intense it feels? You’ll find out even more interesting facts about the way the brain works in this post on the topic.

What was your favorite post on the Nevada Inside Pain blog this month? 

Image by Jesus Solana via Flickr