Treating Pain Based on Gender?

The term oligo-analgesia is the phenomenon of under-treatment of pain. As you just read, African Americans deal with oligo-analgesia, but this study showed that women may also be dealing with the same issue.


Oligo-analgesia or the under-treatment of pain for acute abdominal pain has been attributed to the MDs fear of masking serious underlying pathology. After all simply masking pain may sometimes be harmful.


This study looked at nearly 1000 consecutive patients with acute non-traumatic abdominal pain who visited the emergency department of a hospital in the USA and here is what they found…


  • 62% received some type of analgesic treatment
  • Men and women had similar mean pain scores
  • Women were less likely to receive opiates (♀45% vs. ♂56%)
  • After controlling for pain score, age, and race, women were still up to 25% less likely than men to be prescribed opioids
  • There was no gender difference in the prescription of non-opioid analgesia
  • Women waited 16 minutes longer to be prescribed analgesia (median time ♀65 min. vs. ♂49 min.)


Word of the day: Oligo-analgesia, the under-treatment of pain


This was a study on acute abdominal pain; I have not yet come across a similar study on acute LBP. There is conflicting evidence for the use of opioids for acute or chronic LBP …so considering the risks, it’s better off avoided. Oligo-analgesia, may sometimes be a good thing!


Reference: Chen EH1, et al Gender disparity in analgesic treatment of emergency department patients with acute abdominal pain. Acad Emerg Med. 2008 May;15(5):414-8.

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