When it comes to the type of pain massage therapists see in their session rooms most often—musculoskeletal and connective tissue pain—there is a big different in how male and female clients experience that pain, according to a new review.

Investigators at Stanford University School of Medicine studied a collection of medical records and have determined there is a chasm between males and females when it comes to experiencing pain.

“Their study, published online Jan. 23 in the Journal of Pain, suggests that stronger efforts should be made to recruit women subjects in population and clinical studies in order to find out why this gender difference exists,” noted an article on the university’s website.

“The search identified 47 separate diagnostic categories for which there were more than 40 pain reports for each gender. The sample included more than 11,000 individual adult patients, of which 56 percent were women and 51 percent of them white,” the article noted. “The researchers were able to further analyze these 47 categories by condensing them into 16 disease clusters: ‘musculoskeletal and connective tissue’ (in which the biggest gender differences in reported pain intensity were observed), ‘circulatory’ and so forth.”

“‘We saw higher pain scores for female patients practically across the board,'” said investigator Atul Butte, M.D., Ph.D. Those reported differences were not only statistically significant, but also clinically significant. “‘In many cases, the reported difference approached a full point on the 1-to-10 scale,'” Butte added. “‘How big is that? A pain-score improvement of one point is what clinical researchers view as indicating that a pain medication is working.'”

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