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Fibromyalgia Pain Doesn’t Discriminate Between the Sexes


It doesn’t require a lengthy stint in medical school or a strong background in biology to understand the fundamental fact that men and women are different.

While the above statement is difficult to refute, it would also be accurate to say that it can be proven correct in many different facets. For example, men and women are physically different from one another. Women have breasts, men have flat chests; men have a more pronounced Adam’s apple than women; and men are typically more hairy than women; and obviously, men have a penis and women do not. However, that is just a few of the physical differences between the sexes. What else makes them different?

Although not as concrete as the physical differences, many people would stake a claim that men and women are different from a mental point of view – a theory that is heavily based on hormones, but certainly less difficult to differentiate than the physical differences. However, this and the latter point does beg the question as to what differences there are between men and women when it comes to illness – more specifically, the same illness and how/if it presents itself differently between the sexes.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that affects the muscles and soft tissue of the body and is characterized by widespread pain, sensitivity to touch, fatigue and a number of other symptoms. But do these symptoms present themselves equally in men and women, and more importantly, are they “felt” or experienced the same way?

Fibromyalgia is significantly more common in women than it is in men, but when it comes to feeling its effects, there is little difference between the sexes, according to results of a new study published in the journal Pain Research and Management.

“Previous research has shown that fibromyalgia men present more severe limitations in physical functioning, social functioning, and health perception. However, we failed to find these differences between fibromyalgia women and men in the present study. Our results are consistent with other studies finding no gender differences in clinical key features in fibromyalgia,” authors of the study wrote.

“In the general population, women usually present greater pain sensitivity and lower pain threshold than men, which is in agreement with the results found in the nonfibromyalgia group of the present study,” they wrote, noting that there is a difference in the way genders perceive and handle pain.

“It has been speculated that both peripheral and central nervous systems pathways might be involved in pain experiences; however, the mechanism underlying gender differences in pain remains misunderstood.”

While this finding is not necessarily moving science closer to a cure, it is taking a look at the way the disease impacts specific genders, which could result in more specialized treatment of the disease down the road.