Men Are Insensitive?
Relax! This statement is not a jab at men. When trying to understand how our body perceives pain, we will often bring the conversation to discussing what happens in the brain. After all, that is where all pain signals are processed no mater where the signal starts. It is important to know that there are established differences in how that pain is processed between a male or female.
Imagine an analogy of two guitars connected to amplifiers. In this scenario, both guitars are playing the same tune but one amplifier is set at a lower setting than the other. The end result being that this amplifier will produce a lower volume of sound compared to the other.
As pain signals from different parts of the body travel up the spinal cord, they will eventually end up in areas of the brain that are meant to process them. One such part of the brain essentially serves as the amplifier of these signals and research shows that it is naturally less sensitive in males as compared to females.
So, how do we make sense of all of this? Does it mean that men are stronger than women? Or that women have a natural disadvantage? No.
With evolutionary roles in mind for each sex, our bodies are designed to facilitate the roles we have played for centuries. Parts of a female’s brain that are sensitive to the amplification of pain signals are also parts of the brain that contribute to her having the ability to be more empathetic, feel more emotion and create familial/social bonds. Men are not just less sensitive to pain signals, they are naturally less sensitive to the other aspects described above.
These are generalizations based on research. When applied to the masses, we know that there will always be outliers to these rules. For instance, females who show less sensitivity to pain and men who show more. However, these are points of interest in a clinical setting or for research because it encourages us to engage with patients in a way that is more suitable and appropriate to their condition. It is also an important consideration when we start to discuss why we see more females presenting with chronic pain type symptoms as compared to males.
As a family member, friend or significant other – people of the male gender need to be understanding and support females in their immediate circle who are complaining of feeling pain that is hard to describe, difficult to diagnose and has not yet been treated properly.