woman with stomach ache

Pain Bias Revealed


Women. The way society looks at this gender has taken some changes and improvements. They used to be only a collective tribe of fragile human beings. At present, people recognize empowered women in their respective fields.

Even with this shift in the perception of women, there are still some remnants of biases for this gender. Among them is in the field of medicine. Have you ever heard of pain bias? Here is a simple overview.

Pain Bias: What Is It?

Some women experienced a medical practitioner dismissing their pains and symptoms. This is pain bias. Women in pain receive less attention and treatment than their male counterparts. Much worse, some physicians even attribute the pain as a cause of a woman’s emotional triggers. What women feel are sometimes not seen as actual symptoms of a physical ailment.

What Is the Danger of this Bias?

When pain is not addressed at the onset, the ailment could develop into something more severe. Medical malpractice causes distress and unnecessary treatments, and it may sometimes lead to fatality. The most proficient reporters in court can document such cases well. This expertise helps the aggrieved parties. Yet, these cases should not have been there in the first place without the existence of such a bias.

Also, women will feel insecure about expressing their physical pains. Some women forego consultations because they believe that no significant change will happen.

Where Does This Bias Come From?

Pain bias has its root in a lack of research dedicated to women’s health. For example, doctors may see complaints of abdominal pains by women as period pains. They would not delve deeper for a more apt diagnosis of urological cancer.

For the longest time, researchers use a larger sample of males in their studies. As such, there is a broader pool of information on how male manifests symptoms of a particular disease. It is not an exaggeration to say that physicians are sometimes at a loss on a female patient’s symptoms. As such, they dismiss the pain altogether. It is such a relief that more and more studies are now inclusive of female samples.

What Can a Physician Do?

doctor wearing white lab coat with pensAs a doctor, there are things that one can improve for them not to succumb to the pain bias. Here are some of them.

  • Go for more open-ended questions during consults. Questions answerable with yes or no limit a patient in describing their symptoms. Open-ended ones help them share what they feel.
  • Be more mindful of assumptions. For example, a physician may sometimes associate substance use with men. As for women, doctors assume for this gender to be rich in social support. Both of these counts could be false. As a physician, there should be a conscious effort to eradicate such assumptions.
  • Have a checklist applicable for both genders. Prepare a list of questions that your patients could tick off. This checklist should be the same for both genders. If there is a need to elaborate, leave a space for this purpose.

What Can a Patient Do?

A patient should not put the sole responsibility on a medical practitioner. These are some things that they could take control of. Here are some ideas for them to take a more conscious approach.

  • Equip yourself with preliminary information. Googling is not advisable if it would be your main source of diagnosis. But, you can use it as a basis of how you want to address your pain.
  • Have open communication with your physician. Tell them of your exact symptoms. Do not succumb to the traditional marker of “describe your pain on a scale of 1 to 10.” You can specify, instead, the part of your body that feels the pain. Also, you may jot down some notes of the times when the pain is most evident.
  • Have a clear intention of why you visit your doctor. Do you want to express your concerns? Do you want to have some means to stop your pain? Are you looking for a direct diagnosis or a referral to a specialist? This way, you would not feel disappointed and at a loss after each appointment. You would feel validated that there is proper attention to your concerns.
  • Do not hesitate to go for a second opinion when you feel that there is a need.
  • Be proactive in your health and medical journey. Take down notes of test results, symptoms, and other pertinent details.

A patient, regardless of gender, puts their complete trust in a physician. Women should not have the misfortune of experiencing pain bias. A correct diagnosis is in order. This way, proper treatments and relief could ensue.

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