Women's Health

“Our Pain Is Invisible. But We’re Not.”

CONSIDER FOR A MOMENT THE WOMEN in your life who regularly grit their teeth through pain. Your old college roommate who was knocked flat by migraines. The friend who cancels plans because of her nightmarish cramps from fibroids. The running buddy whose relentless backaches have sidelined her from your weekly jogs.

Women are taught that suffering (periods, childbirth, sore joints) is just part of the deal, the crappy door prize we’re born with by virtue of our two X chromosomes. In a way, it is. Chronic pain—the kind that drags on for months or years and throws a wrench into relationships, careers, workouts, and everything in between—affects women in greater numbers than it does men, and often more severely. Around 56 percent of the 50 million sufferers in America are women.

Yet our medical system is woefully ill-equipped to handle what hurts us. Most of the research has been on men, so many doctors aren’t trained to adequately treat the pain-causing disorders that disproportionately touch women, says Maya Dusenbery, author of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick. Beyond that, there is the entrenched myth that women’s discomfort is all in our heads, says Dusenbery. Yes, even in 2019.

Lump all this together and it’s no wonder that women wait longer in emergency rooms than men and are less likely to

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