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Study reveals reason women are more sensitive to pain than men

October 24, 2005

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - For centuries, it has been generally believed women are the more sensitive gender. A new study says that, when it comes to pain, women are in fact more sensitive. According to a report published in October's Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), women have more nerve receptors, which cause them to feel pain more intensely than men.

"This study has serious implications about how we treat women after surgery as well as women who experience chronic pain," said Bradon Wilhelmi, MD, ASPS member and author of the study. "Because women have more nerve receptors, they may experience pain more powerfully than men, requiring different surgical techniques, treatments or medicine dosages to help manage their pain and make them feel comfortable."

According to the study, women averaged 34 nerve fibers per square centimeter of facial skin while men only averaged 17 nerve fibers. Despite psychosocial expectations for men to be tougher than women when feeling pain, these findings illustrate that women's lower pain tolerance and threshold are physical.

"Eighty-seven percent of the 9.2 million cosmetic surgery procedures performed last year were on women," said Dr. Wilhelmi. "The ability to minimize pain often affects a patient's perception of their results. We hope this data will give new perspective on how to better treat post-operative pain in women."

Currently, 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from acute pain, says Dr. Wilhelmi, while 25 to 30 percent suffer from chronic pain.
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For referrals to ASPS Member Surgeons certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, call 888-4-PLASTIC (475-2784) or visit www.plasticsurgery.org where you can also learn more about cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is the largest organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. With more than 6,000 members, the society is recognized as a leading authority and information source on cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. ASPS comprises 94 percent of all board-certified plastic surgeons in the United States. Founded in 1931, the society represents physicians certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery or The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons

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