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How Gender Bias May Impact Treatment

How Gender Bias May Impact Treatment

You know your body better than anyone. But if you’re a woman experiencing acute or chronic pain, it wouldn’t be unheard of to meet a healthcare provider who seems to think that your pain is just “all in your head.”

Research suggests that doctors often dismiss women’s complaints of pain. This can lead to delayed or inappropriate treatment, and women may see multiple doctors before finding someone who takes them seriously.

One study revealed that women having a heart attack are up to seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and prematurely discharged from the hospital. Another study found that women are more likely than men to be given sedatives instead of painkillers after reporting pain.

3 Tips for Talking to Doctors About Pain

It can feel uncomfortable discussing certain symptoms with a physician. But if you’re a woman in pain, it’s important for you to communicate what you’re experiencing to help your doctor provide appropriate treatment.

Here are three things you can do to make it easier to talk about pain with your doctor:

  • Think of a more specific way to describe your pain. Use words that describe its intensity and characteristics, like “searing intermittent pain.”
  • Keep notes about your pain – your good days, bad days, what actions make the pain worse, and how it affects your sleep and daily routine.
  • Have a support system. Bring a partner or close family member with you to your appointment. They can also advocate for you by sharing with the doctor their perspective on how pain impacts your ability to function in your daily life.

Feel free to ask your doctor what he or she knows about the literature on gender disparities in pain management. A good doctor will see this as a helpful reminder to be aware of their own biases. And if the doctor becomes defensive or dismissive, it may be a sign that you need to seek a second opinion from a more open-minded provider.