Your Body: Parsing Pain

How women hurt more, and how to heal faster

Dance Magazine—November 26, 2013

Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it.

Several years ago, The Journal of Pain published a study that found that women are at a greater risk than men of developing chronic pain conditions. A recent study, also published in The Journal of Pain, found women actually experience pain more intensely than men. And a landmark report published by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, determined that doctors tend to underestimate women’s reports of pain more often than men’s.

So what should a woman dancer do? If she minimizes her pain to protect her career, which some dancers feel they must, she likely will be under-treated. Even if she reports her pain accurately, there’s a good chance that a doctor’s gender bias, however unconscious, may mean she does not get the help she needs.

“I see the gender gap for pain in my practice,” says Elizabeth Manejías, a dance medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Integrative Care Center in New York City. “And the longer you have pain, the more your brain and nervous system become used to having that pain, and the cycle of pain becomes more challenging to interrupt. Early diagnosis can help.”

Manejías has several suggestions to help women dancers get early and optimal treatment.

PREP FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT. You only have so much time in front of the physician, so make it count. “Write down your questions and key points in your pain history to help stay focused during your visit with the doctor,” says Manejías. “If you don’t understand the physician’s approach, ask for a further explanation.”

GET A REFERRAL. You are not the first dancer to be in pain. This is the time to utilize your network. “Dancers should reach out to other dancers or teachers who have had a positive experience with a particular physician,” adds Manejías.

Read the full story at dancemagazine.com.

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