|This conference makes it clear: in the realm of pain,
gender matters. Once glossed over, gender differences today are at the forefront of the
nation's pain research agenda.
Studies presented at the gender and pain conference emphasized these facts:
These issues are particularly important as the population grows older: women, on average, live 6 years longer than men. In a recent report on managing chronic pain in older persons, the American Geriatrics Society estimated that 25% to 50% of older persons living in the community have pain problems. About 1 in 5 older persons reports taking pain-relieving medications several times a week. Pain problems are even more common in nursing homes. As many as 80% of nursing home residents may have substantial pain that is undertreated.
When using high dosages of potent medications, including morphine and other narcotics to relieve pain, physicians worry about the possibility of addiction. Such concerns, it turns out, usually are groundless. Persons who need pain relief seldom use their medications inappropriately.
Studies of persons who do abuse such drugs, however, may illuminate the pain experience, according to research reported at the conference by Jack H. Mendelson, M.D., professor of psychiatry (neuroscience) at Harvard Medical School and co- director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Research Center at McLean Hospital, both in Boston, Massachusetts. Studies of the different effects of pain-relieving drugs on men and women, Dr. Mendelson suggested, also may lead to better ways to treat substance abuse.
Gender and pain conference attendees agreed
on these key issues for future practice and research: