Do men feel pain?
Well, here is the verdict.
Men do hurt.
In fact, many suffer in private for extended periods of time.
Dr Zipporah Ali, a palliative care specialist who also has a special interest in pain management notes that cultural expectations in place have fostered a myth and untruth that men should not cry or express pain or discomfort in public.
Men are supposed to be bravado!
Yes, men are expected to display stoicism
But are they?
“We live in a society where hiding pain is celebrated as being macho,” noted Dr Ali adding that pain is an indicative sign of illness or distress.
According to Dr Ali, pain has now been added as a 5th vital sign at health facilities besides blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature usually taken during triage. Pain has also been described as invisible, subjective and an open dispute .
Today we discuss these gender associations.
A 2013 paper by E. J. Bartley and R. B. Fillingim published in the British journal of Anaesthesia looked at the sex differences of pain and found out that culture-related variability in stereotypical beliefs about pain may also play a role in noted differences between men and women.
It is also interesting to note that pain scientists have now established that the degree of pain goes beyond whether you are a man or woman.
It is determined by a basketful of characteristics, including genetics, anatomical development and hormone levels, each of which might affect your needs in pain therapy.
What is pain anyway?
According to Dr Ali who is also the Executive Director of Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), pain happens when neural sensors in the skin, muscles, joints or organs register a potentially harmful sensation, such as heat or tissue damage.
They send signals through peripheral nerves to the spinal cord, activating other nerves that send signals to the brainstem and on to the cerebral cortex, which interprets those signals as ‘ouch!’.
Some of the indicators that point out that a person is in pain include an increased heart and breathing rate, larger pupils of the eye and increased blood glucose levels.
What are the various types of pain? These include;
• Physical pain
• Emotional pain
• Psychological pain
• Spiritual pain
• Financial pain
Did you know that pain is further described according to the intensity and its location?
• Acute pain- recent onset or for specific injury. It lasts seconds to 6 months
• Chronic pain- constant or intermittent pain six months or longer cancer pain
• Pain classified by location
Some of the possible cultural explanations that have been advanced as to why women are thought to ‘cope better with pain’ as alluded by Prof Gillian Bendelow, a sociologist of health and medicine include;
• Their greater readiness to report pain/talk about feelings;
• The greater likelihood that they will act on symptoms/seek support or help
• Their childhood socialisation to develop and encourage caring for others/imagination about how it feels to be in pain/distress
• Women’s ontological security and sense of identity may be less threatened by the admission of being in pain than is the case for men, for whom the psychological structure of masculinity is predisposed to inhibit the admission of vulnerability.
Prof Bendelow warns that these gendered assumptions may be double-edged, in that the expectation of being able to ‘cope’ may lead to inflicting or ignoring pain.
Dr Ali echoes this call and makes a clarion call on these biased cultural assumptions.
Men hurt too.