Ladies, Are We Big Babies When It Comes to Pain?

A new study found that women feel more pain than men. I'm crying foul.

It’s hard to argue with science, I know, but I have to do my part for Girl Power, and womankind, and all that, and say, no—I refuse to believe the findings of this study on pain and gender. According to data gathered from 72,000 adult patients, women report feeling more pain than men when experiencing everything from migraines to joint pain to digestion disorders. In fact, of the 47 common health problems probed in the study, women out-pained men in 39 of them.

For the study, researchers examined 160,000 self-reported pain scores; in many categories, women reported pain intensity a full point higher than men on a 1-to-10-point scale. That’s pretty significant, says senior study author and Stanford professor Atul Butte, especially considering that “a pain-score improvement of one point is what clinical researchers view as indicating that a pain medication is working,” he said in a news release.

But! (thank God for the but) the researchers say the gender differences could be due to the fact that men—what with their ingrained macho tendencies, and all—are simply under-reporting how much pain they’re actually experiencing. And since pain is a subjective thing, anyway, it’s hard to say definitively that one person feels more or less pain than another.

Here’s what I would like to add to the conversation (and I’m sure other ladies and gents can weigh in here, too): In my experience, men—not women—are big fat babies when it comes to pain. My husband, Chris, (love you, hon!) has a lot of traits that make me swoon, but pain tolerance is definitely not one of them. I think it’s because he gets sick so rarely that when the odd headache or flu crops up, he all but shuts down. He sighs (loudly) as he ambles from the couch to bed, making sure I don’t forget he’s feeling under the weather. It’s … not charming.

I’m sure I do my fair share of complaining, too, and Lord knows I have my obnoxious qualities, but I think I handle pain pretty well (a childhood of migraines will do that to a gal). That goes for many of the women in my life, too: My mom once trekked around New York City on a black-and-blue toe, never once complaining or asking to sit down; she found out the next week it was broken. And among Chris’s grandmother’s most memorable qualities was her refusal to get Novacaine at the dentist, no matter the procedure. Now that’s some pain tolerance.

But that’s just my experience. Let’s go to the comments; I’m sure you’re just dying to sound off with your own stories.