9 Facts About Pain in Men and Women

Do men and women experience pain differently? Women report experiencing pain more frequently than men. For a significant period, the assumption prevailed that women were generally more pain-sensitive. However, current research reveals the complexity of this issue, with studies yielding varying conclusions [7]. Explore nine intriguing facts about pain in both women and men:

1) Perceptions of pain in men and women are influenced by various factors, including biological distinctions such as differing hormonal profiles, genetics, immune responses, brain and nervous system functions, and psychosocial elements such as coping strategies and distinct societal expectations [3,10].

2) Research in mice has revealed the existence of two sex-specific pathways for pain processing. When nerve injury induces heightened pain sensitivity in the laboratory, distinct immune cell mechanisms are at play in male and female mice. The choice of immune cell or pain processing pathway appears to be influenced by testosterone levels. While there are indications of potential parallels in humans, it is essential to note that this line of research is still in its early stages [3].

3) Women exhibit a lower pain threshold than men in specific pain stimuli, such as pressure pain. It is essential to note that pain threshold should not be conflated with overall pain sensitivity, as various factors contribute to the latter [5].

4) Women also exhibit greater sensitivity to sensory stimuli in different domains, including touch, smell, and color vision [5].

5) Females demonstrate more effective adaptation and habituation than males when experiencing prolonged pain [5].

6) Research suggests subtle distinctions between men and women in the prescription, utilization, and response to certain analgesics. Contributing factors encompass age, weight, other medical conditions, and the specific type of analgesic. Further investigations are warranted to delve deeper into this subject [8].

7) Men and women employ distinct coping strategies to manage pain. Men tend to rely on problem-oriented coping and distraction through activities. At the same time, women are more inclined to utilize social support, embrace pain acceptance, employ attention redirection, engage in emotion-oriented coping, and use thought/cognitive coping [2,9].

One noteworthy concern for women is their higher propensity for catastrophizing, a factor that can exacerbate pain (for additional information and strategies, refer here). Additionally, women often exhibit lower self-efficacy than men, which is associated with increased pain and heightened physical symptoms [2].

8) Individual expectations and personal values play a significant role in shaping one’s perception of pain. For instance, adherence to traditional gender roles can influence how they perceive and respond to pain. Those who strongly believe in gender-based differences in pain perception may adjust their behavior accordingly [1]. It is important to note that gender roles and associated expectations related to pain perception can also vary across different cultural contexts [4].

9) Lastly, the expectations and attitudes of the environment play a crucial role. In a study involving over 600 participants, videos featured both men and women experiencing back pain at work [6]. The results revealed that women’s pain was consistently rated as less severe and more likely to be perceived as exaggerated. It was also attributed less to medical causes and was deemed to require less treatment, including pain medication and workplace adjustments. Conversely, women’s pain was attributed more to psychological factors, leading to recommendations for psychological treatment. On the other hand, a separate study found that medical students rated women’s pain as more severe than men’s, even when presented with the same facial expression [11]. Similarly, pain-related postures were rated more painful in women compared to men [12].

In summary, multiple mechanisms contribute to the observed sex differences in pain perception. Collectively, these studies illuminate the intricate nature of pain and the multitude of factors that can influence it. In the future, these insights may aid in developing more personalized pain management approaches, benefiting patients. Additionally, individuals may find some of these insights helpful in enhancing their strategies for coping with pain. For practical tips, consider exploring the resources available here.


Alabas OA, Tashani OA, Tabasam G, Johnson MI. Gender role affects experimental pain responses: A systematic review with meta-analysis. European Journal of Pain [Internet]. 2012 [cited 2021 Aug 24];16(9):1211–23. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/j.1532-2149.2012.00121.x
Bartley EJ, Fillingim RB. Sex differences in pain: a brief review of clinical and experimental findings. Br J Anaesth. 2013 Jul;111(1):52–8.
Dance A. Why the sexes don’t feel pain the same way. Nature. 2019 Mar 27;567:448–50.
Defrin R, Shramm L, Eli I. Gender role expectations of pain is associated with pain tolerance limit but not with pain threshold. Pain [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2021 Aug 24];145(1):230–6. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/00006396-200909000-00035
Hashmi JA, Davis KD. Deconstructing sex differences in pain sensitivity. Pain [Internet]. 2014 [cited 2021 Aug 24];155(1):10–3. Available from: https://journals.lww.com/00006396-201401000-00006
Miller MM, Allison A, Trost Z, De Ruddere L, Wheelis T, Goubert L, et al. Differential Effect of Patient Weight on Pain-Related Judgements About Male and Female Chronic Low Back Pain Patients. The Journal of Pain [Internet]. 2018 Jan 1 [cited 2021 Aug 24];19(1):57–66. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1526590017307174
Pieretti S, Di Giannuario A, Di Giovannandrea R, Marzoli F, Piccaro G, Minosi P, et al. Gender differences in pain and its relief. Ann Ist Super Sanita. 2016 Jun;52(2):184–9.
Pisanu C, Franconi F, Gessa GL, Mameli S, Pisanu GM, Campesi I, et al. Sex differences in the response to opioids for pain relief: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Pharmacol Res. 2019 Oct;148:104447.
Rovner GS, Sunnerhagen KS, Björkdahl A, Gerdle B, Börsbo B, Johansson F, et al. Chronic pain and sex-differences; women accept and move, while men feel blue. PLoS One. 2017;12(4):e0175737.
Sorge RE, Strath LJ. Sex differences in pain responses. Current Opinion in Physiology [Internet]. 2018 Dec 1 [cited 2021 Aug 24];6:75–81. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468867318300786
Stutts LA, Hirsh AT, George SZ, Robinson ME. Investigating patient characteristics on pain assessment using virtual human technology. Eur J Pain. 2010 Nov;14(10):1040–5.
Walsh J, Eccleston C, Keogh E. Sex differences in the decoding of pain-related body postures. Eur J Pain. 2017 Nov;21(10):1668–77.
Benachrichtige mich bei
Inline Feedbacks
Zeige alle
Teresa Götz