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5 Articles in this Series
Breaking Down Barriers, Including Potential Trauma, When Treating Women in Chronic Pain
Key Goals, Including Healthcare Equity, Emerge from the Chronic Pain in Women Summit
Pain and Sleep: Why It Is So Crucial and How CBT May Help
Sex Differences in Pain Response Matter
Women in Chronic Pain Need More from their HCPs

Women in Chronic Pain Need More from their HCPs

HealthyWomen survey shows room for improvement in provider understanding and resources.

HealthyWomen held its inaugural Chronic Pain Summit in early July 2019, in Maryland, showcasing both clinical updates and patient perspectives on the management of pain disorders, from migraine and arthritis, to fibromyalgia, spinal issues, and post-operative pain.

Leading up to the conference, the independent, nonprofit organization shared highlights from its recent survey of just over 1,000 women who live with chronic pain. HealthyWomen survey participants included women who have experienced persistent or recurring pain for more than three months (ie, chronic pain). Of those surveyed, 90% had received a diagnosis for the cause of their pain and 48% reported using opioids to help treat their pain. Beyond opioids, other common pain management methods used included:  other prescription medications, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as ibuprofen, and physiotherapy.

The conversation and transparency needs to go both ways when discussing optimal chronic pain management. (Image: 123RF)

Below are a few additional statistics from the survey:

  • 36% of respondents said they do not think their healthcare provider (HCP) takes their pain seriously while 45% believe their provider is “somewhat understanding,” and 17% say their HCP is not understanding.
  • 62% of women reported that they sometimes feel hopeless and/or helpless about their pain, while 35% said they always feel hopeless and/or helpless.
  • Nearly all of those surveyed—95%—reported that their pain affects their ability to live a full and active life. And more than half (53%) said their pain interferes with their sleep.
  • 38% of respondents feel that they do not have access to enough information about pain.

Looking ahead, the women surveyed said they would like to see pain management include:

  • adequately trained providers (65%)
  • support from HCP (58%)
  • availability of resources (56%).

“As a practicing healthcare professional, I am not surprised to learn that women place ‘adequately trained providers’ at the top of their list when it comes to pain management,” says HealthyWomen CEO Beth Battaglino, RN-C. “When it comes to diagnosis, treatment and management of pain, there is always more to learn. This is especially true when it comes to chronic pain, particularly when it’s not linked to something visible or related to a diagnosis like cancer.”

“Equally important, too,” added Ms. Battaglino, “is training related to sex and gender differences in how pain is felt by men versus women — and thus, how it should be managed and treated, patient by patient. Our summit, which brought together researchers, clinicians, industry experts and patients living with chronic pain, featured new research being done to understand chronic pain in women as well as new educational resources available to patients to help them better understand their pain management options."

“And yet, we know that during medical appointments, women are given very limited time to share their concerns with their health care providers. Meanwhile, for healthcare providers, it can be overwhelming to know what questions to ask and what conditions to focus on when it comes to treating chronic pain. As a result, a disconnect remains. Our goal is to inform and educate women to ask the right questions of their healthcare providers, make informed healthcare choices and advocate for themselves to live and age well.”



HealthyWomen. Chronic Pain in Women: Focus on Treatment, Management and Barriers. Available at: https://www.healthywomen.org/chronic-pain-summit. Accessed July 18, 2019.


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