Women are from Venus, men are from Mars and migraines come from the darkest reaches of human neurochemistry. Medical research studies that date back to the previous century indicate that women are far more likely to suffer from migraines than men, and women who give birth to baby girls are more likely to pass on their chronic cephalalgia condition to their daughters.
A 2003 broad-reaching study conducted by the University of Michigan suggests that chronic pain in general seems to happen more frequently among women. Another comprehensive study that took place over three years was conducted in emergency rooms across Baltimore in 2006; this study confirmed what pain specialists notice in many of their patients: Women tend to experience pain with greater intensity than men.
Flaws in Previous Research StudiesIt wasn't until the late 20th century when scientists dedicated to biological, medical and pharmaceutical research took a hard look at their laboratory practices and noticed that something was not quite right: An overwhelming amount of experiments were conducted solely on male mice. This incredible oversight can be blamed on the men and women who conduct laboratory research, who often feel that the male of the mice species is more docile and easier to handle than the female.
Thankfully, things have changed in laboratories around the world, and now there is more equality for research mice. Females are being experimented on instead of being raised solely for the purpose of bearing more offspring, preferably males, for future research.
Disproportion in DiseaseNot only are women more likely than men to suffer from chronic migraines but also from:
- Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The pain threshold reported by women who have volunteered for research studies whereby they have endured small amounts of pain indicates that they are not as tolerant or resistant to pain as their male counterparts. Physicians and biologists who have examined data from these studies have concluded that women who suffer from chronic migraines have a harder time dealing with their conditions than men.
In essence, the pain caused by migraine episodes tends to be more problematic for women than for men. There are many causal factors in this regard, and they range from genetics to physiology and from hormonal systems to psychosocial history.
Before women around the world get together to exclaim in unison: “great, one more factor to add to the gender gap,” it is worth noting that the female of the human species tends to be more resilient than the male in terms of health, particularly during early development. For this reason, child mortality is much greater in baby boys than baby girls. Women tend to enjoy greater longevity and have been outliving men for many centuries.
Some philosophers who observe biology and the human condition believe that nature may select women to be more sensitive and aware to pain than men as a means to protect and prolong the human species. Men, for example, tend to die in greater numbers in their late adolescence and early adulthood due to armed conflict, violence, carelessness, work-related accidents, homicides, etc. Women, on the other hand, tend to protect themselves and steer away from situations that they think could be painful and dangerous. This behavior has led many thinkers to ponder the idea of a survival instinct that calls upon women to raise and nurture young humans well into their golden years.
Continuing research into the way women experience pain will likely improve treatment strategies that take greater consideration of gender, which means that in the future we may see migraine medication colored blue for men and pink for women according to their special formulation.
*Image courtesy of David Amsler