New Study Reveals Why Your Doctor May Not Be Taking You Seriously

Imagine going to the doctor because you've been in pain and nothing you've tried is helping. You sit down, explain to the doctor what's going on, and ask them to help you. You trust that the doctor will do their best to find out what's wrong and fix it. Now imagine that instead of helping, the doctor tells you that your pain probably isn't really that bad. A new study published in the Journal of Pain reveals that for women, this isn't a hypothetical story — it happens all the time (via Science Daily).

Researchers at the University of Miami recently published a study that shows that the pain response of patients may be perceived differently depending on the gender of the patient. Test subjects were shown videos of patients with shoulder injuries and asked to score each based on how much pain they thought the patient was experiencing. The researchers then compared these scores to the self-reported pain scores of the actual patients. Subjects were also asked to complete a questionnaire that measured their biases about gender-based pain endurance, sensitivity, and the likelihood that someone of each gender would seek medical attention.

The pain isn't just in your head

What the researchers found confirmed the experiences of many women who have had their pain dismissed by doctors. Test subjects perceived female patients were to be in less pain than males, even if both patients reported, and showed, the same level of pain. This was partially due to the underlying gender biases of the test subjects, according to their answers on the gender stereotype questionnaire. Test subjects were also more likely to recommend that men receive medication for their pain and women receive psychotherapy. Also, the gender of the test subject did not affect how they perceived the pain of the patients.

Often, men are expected to be more vocal about their pain, and are given the opportunity to advocate for themselves, while women don't always feel empowered to speak up if they think something is wrong. Doctors recommend that women who feel like their medical provider is not taking them seriously seek second opinions, but they also recognize that it is the responsibility of the medical community to recognize gender bias and actively work to eliminate it (via Northwell Health).