Pain is ubiquitous, but effective pain relief eludes many. Research has shown that some pain behaviours are perceived as gendered, and this may influence the way men and women express and cope with pain, but such enquiries have not extended to specific methods of pain relief. Our aim was to explore perceptions of the most socially acceptable ways for men and women to relieve pain. Across 2 studies, 60 participants (50% men) aged 18 to 78 years completed a Q-sort task, sorting different pain relief strategies by the social acceptability for either women (study 1; N = 30) or men (study 2; N = 30). Analyses revealed 2 stereotypes for each sex. The overarching stereotype for women suggested it is most acceptable for them to use pain relief strategies considered conventional and effective. However, a second stereotype suggested it is most acceptable for women to use strategies that generally conform to feminine gender norms and stereotypes. The overarching male stereotype suggested it is most acceptable for men to use pain relief aligned with stereotypical masculinity; however, a second stereotype also emerged, characterised by conventional and effective responses to pain, much like the overarching stereotype for women. These differing viewpoints seem to depend on whether gender norm conformity or perceived analgesic efficacy is believed to determine social acceptability. These studies provide initial evidence of both a gendered and ungendered lens through which pain relief can be viewed, which may influence how men and women use pain relief.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine