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Men feel less pain when inflicted by women, study finds

A person who’s exposed to physical pain feels less severe pain if he’s subjected to pain by a lady compared with a person, based on recent research from Lund University in Sweden. As well as, men experience less pain after surgery when asked about it by a lady than by a person.



This was true despite the proven fact that the boys and girls involved within the study were dressed the identical and used the identical script.”

Anna Sellgren Engskov, PhD student at Lund University and consultant in anesthesiology and intensive care

Anna Sellgren Engskov will defend her dissertation at Lund University along with her thesis Perception of nociceptive pain – perspectives on induction, evaluation and gender on November 17.

In the primary study, healthy volunteers were stimulated with a brief laser pulse within the arche of their feet. Along with recent knowledge about how different pain fibres are activated, an image emerged that surprised the researchers: when it was a lady who induced pain in a male research subject, stronger pain stimulation was required to realize the identical pain threshold in comparison with if the performer was a person.

The outcomes inspired to a follow-up study focusing solely on gender. Now the research subjects got a small device of their hand, which when a button is pressed emits a weak electric current. The research subjects would release the button after they felt pain. The tests were conducted twice, once with a female examiner and once with a male. Each were neutrally and professionally dressed and stuck to a script to avoid some other interaction that would affect the situation.

“Similar to in the primary study, we saw that it required stronger stimulation to elicit the identical estimated pain with a female examiner than with a male. Each female and male research subjects experienced this”, says Anna Sellgren Engskov.

The outcomes brought her on to a brand new group of subjects: postoperative patients. Could their pain experiences even be influenced by the gender of the examiner? A complete of 245 patients in three different postoperative wards at Skåne University Hospital were surveyed. A female and a male investigator asked the patients about their pain shortly after surgery.

“We were capable of partially confirm our previous results here as well. Men, but not women, were in less pain when asked by a lady. The differences weren’t that great, and doubtless has no significance at a gaggle level. Nevertheless, for the person patient it could actually matter, especially on condition that the differences in pain were best when it hurt a lot that the patients began asking for pain relief”, says Anna Sellgren Engskov.

There may be existing research that means a better empathic ability in women, which in turn might be linked to silent communication – for instance more smiles and more direct eye contact. But whether this explains the outcomes is tough to say.

“That is the primary confirmation of those results each experimentally in healthy individuals in addition to clinically with newly operated patients. Including the gender perspective when pain is evaluated can hopefully contribute to patients receiving even higher care and pain treatment in the longer term”, concludes Professor Jonas Åkeson, primary supervisor within the project and senior physician in anesthesiology and intensive care at SUS in Malmö.

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