Women and Pain

Why It Hurts and What You Can Do by Dr. Mark Young with Karen Baar

by Valerie MacEwan


Pain is a sentinel you should not ignore . . .

Someone has finally said it. It’s right here in black and white. Women feel more pain, seek help more aggressively, and make more active attempts to cope with pain than men. This is just how Mark Young, author of Women and Pain, puts it: Women have said it—and men have denied it—for years. Young wants to remedy the situation, wants women to know he’s listening, the medical world is listening . . . and there is hope.

Women and Pain joins a long list of self-help books designed to help ease physical suffering. Some are full of crystals and positive thinking, some offer diet, exercise, and herbal remedies, many are suspect. But Mark Young hails from the teaching faculty of Johns Hopkins University, the bastion of patient care and scientific studies, the place where professionals talk and laymen (laywomen) listen.

cover art

Women and Pain

Dr. Mark Young with Karen Baar

Why It Hurts and What You Can Do


Here’s the deal about medical books for lay readers: Most of them seem to contain the same basic information with a few new twists. Young’s book repeats information openly available in numerous books. The strength of Women and Pain is found in its completeness. The book specifically addresses “a complex array of strictly female symptoms and concerns” and then goes the distance by offering complementary and holistic remedies alongside traditional medical advice. It’s even got recipes and a list at the back of the book of foods that are potential pain relievers.

Women who suffer chronic pain often need to be told the obvious. Young’s book is full of “no-duh” advice which, undoubtedly, will turn away the learned reader. What needs to be appreciated is that many women don’t know the rules of self-preservation: Take time out for yourself, embrace the value of long hot baths, exercise, eat right, wear supportive shoes, stand up straight, sit at an ergononimcally designed workspace, and understand there is not a convenient pill to cure whatever ails you. Sometimes the key to pain management is personal management. In the year 2002, there are still women who haven’t been told to relax every once in a while, to slow down, that they can’t be everything to everybody. As God is my witness, a friend of mine, the 34 year old wife of a dentist, looked me straight in the eyes the other day and said, “Did you know eggs are high in cholesterol? I just heard that on TV.” Buy this book as a present for anyone you know who’s like that.

The book offers quite a bit of new information. Young is an acupuncturist, among other things, and believes strongly in alternative holistic treatment—down to earth stuff, not science fiction. He aptly describes illnesses and their treatments, offers suggestions, and gives alternatives. The bottom line seems to be behavior modification. Many readers will have trouble following Young’s advice. I suspect many women believe they just plain don’t have the time. Young contends pain will make you find the time.

The book details which pain medications work for men and not for women. Research shows certain classes of drugs work better to relieve women’s pain than they do men’s. According to Young, doctors often misdiagnose women since they are trained to look for and treat typical male symptoms. Congress, in 1993, finally mandated sufficient numbers of women and minorities be included in research to “allow for valid analysis of any differences.” That same year the Food and Drug Adminstration lifted its restrictions on “permitting women in childbearing years to participate in medical research.” It wasn’t until 1998 that the FDA required pharmaceutical manufacturers to report the age, gender, and race of research trial participants.

Young’s book continues the trend toward informing women of their health care options. It’s a valuable resource and should be on the bookshelves of women everywhere.

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