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Eur J Pain. 2008 May;12(4):427-40. Epub 2007 Oct 23.

Bridging the gap between pain and gender research: a selective literature review.

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ISCTE-Lisbon University Institute/Centro de Investigação e Intervenção Social (CIS), Department of Social and Organizational Psychology (cacifo 34 AA), Av. das Forças Armadas, 1649-023 Lisbon, Portugal.


Evidence suggests that males and females differ with respect to the perception and experience of pain. Much of this work focuses on biological factors, yet it is also acknowledged that psychosocial issues are important. Within humans, socially and culturally constructed meanings of being and acting as a man or a woman should help us understand sex-related differences in pain. However, such an approach has not been widely adopted, partly because of problems conveying sex and gender concepts. We argue here for an assimilation of gender studies concepts into pain research as a means of developing our understanding of the psychosocial influences on pain in men and women. In order to bridge the gap between gender studies and pain, we draw on theoretical developments in such gender concepts, and illustrate their application to pain. We make use of Doise's [Doise W. Levels of explanation in social psychology [Mapstone E, Trans.]. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press. 1986 [original work published 1982]] meta-theoretical model of levels of explanation in social psychology to show how gender may be conceptualized at an intra-individual, situational, positional and ideological level of analysis. We then selectively review existing gender and pain research using these different levels of explanation. In doing so we also highlight that by considering the gender conceptualizations underpinning such studies we are able to point to directions for future research. We conclude by arguing that this approach opens up a new avenue for pain researchers, which we hope will further our understanding of this interesting phenomena.

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