2007-2008 Pain in Women

Real Women, Real Pain

Why ‘Real Women, Real Pain’?

The ‘Real Women, Real Pain’ campaign aims to empower women and raise awareness of pain issues affecting women worldwide.

Every day millions of women around the world suffer from chronic pain but many remain untreated. Several reasons may explain why barriers to treatment still exist.  Psychosocial factors, such as gender roles, pain coping strategies and mood may influence how pain is perceived and communicated. In addition, there may be a lack of acceptance or understanding of the biological differences between men and women that may impact how pain is perceived.  These psychosocial and biological factors, coupled with the economic and political barriers that still exist in many countries, have left millions of women living in pain without proper treatment.

Female Pain Issues

Pain conditions affecting women have a significant global impact.  Yet, there is still a lack of awareness/recognition of pain issues affecting women. Chronic pain affects a higher proportion of women than men around the world; however women are less likely to receive treatment.  Research has shown that women generally experience more recurrent pain, more severe pain and longer lasting pain than men.

Many people are unaware that certain pain conditions are more prevalent in women than in men. For example, fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by chronic widespread pain, is significantly more prevalent in women (80-90% of diagnosed cases are women).1 Other conditions that disproportionately affect women include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), chronic pelvic pain and migraine headache. For more information on these and other pain conditions affecting women, please click here to view our fact sheets.

1. NIAMS. Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia. Publication No. 04-5326. NIH; 2004.


18 Fact Sheets, on topics ranging from obstetric pain to gender-based violence, are available in nine languages (English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Hindi, and Gujarati).

IASP Materials Available for Download

IASP Publications Available for Purchase

  • Sleep and Pain (2007) – Special attention is accorded to fibromyalgia, which is more prevalent in women.
Fact Sheets