October 26, 2005
Women Have More Facial Nerve Receptors Than Men

A larger number of facial nerves may provide one explanation for why women feel more pain.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. For centuries, it has been generally believed women are the more sensitive gender. A new study says that, when it comes to pain, women are in fact more sensitive. According to a report published in October's Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), women have more nerve receptors, which cause them to feel pain more intensely than men.

"This study has serious implications about how we treat women after surgery as well as women who experience chronic pain," said Bradon Wilhelmi, MD, ASPS member and author of the study. "Because women have more nerve receptors, they may experience pain more powerfully than men, requiring different surgical techniques, treatments or medicine dosages to help manage their pain and make them feel comfortable."

According to the study, women averaged 34 nerve fibers per square centimeter of facial skin while men only averaged 17 nerve fibers. Despite psychosocial expectations for men to be tougher than women when feeling pain, these findings illustrate that women's lower pain tolerance and threshold are physical.

But does the higher concentration of nerve fibers in the face of women reflect a similar difference between men and women in other parts of their bodies? I suspect not.

Also, I've come across lots of studies that contradict each other on the question of whether men or women have lower pain thresholds or feel more pain. Thinking about this study a thought occurs: Maybe men have lower pain thresholds for some parts of the body while women do for other parts. Or perhaps maybe men and women have different ratios of pain sensitivity for acute versus chronic pain.

Most plastic surgeries are done on women.

"Eighty-seven percent of the 9.2 million cosmetic surgery procedures performed last year were on women," said Dr. Wilhelmi. "The ability to minimize pain often affects a patient's perception of their results. We hope this data will give new perspective on how to better treat post-operative pain in women."

A lot of people are feeling pain.

Currently, 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from acute pain, says Dr. Wilhelmi, while 25 to 30 percent suffer from chronic pain.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 October 26 10:06 AM  Brain Pain

Hugh Angell said at October 26, 2005 5:52 PM:

Interesting but is the feeling of pain dependant on the number of neuroreceptors per
square centimeter? Why is a toothache so painful? Is it because there are more nerve
endings in the pulp of a tooth? If so why, afterall we have lots of redundancy in our
dental arrangements. No one ever died because they lost a tooth or two.

On the other hand a man's testes are exquisitely painful to even a mild blow. Do men have
more neuroreceptors in their genitalia than women or is it just that the ones that are
there are wired into the brain differently.

Pain is a very interesting subject. I watched a TV documentary on jellyfish, one variety
of which I believe is called the Irukandje. It's ability to inflict pain seems unmatched
in the animal kingdom and conventional painkillers seem useless against its stingers. The
why of this might be very useful in developing painkillers that do not have the toxic or
narcotic effect of those we use currently.

julie said at December 29, 2005 11:03 PM:

I saw the same discovery channel special on the irukandji jellyfish. (i believe it was called Killer Jellyfish)
At one point, two of the researchers are stung. They show them in the hospital. The main researcher was holding up okay, and he remained pretty coherent. But his young assistant wasnt as lucky. At first, she's sitting up, and barely able to contain herself, complaining that her arms and legs are killing her, her back hurts, and she wants to rip off her skin and her face. Later on, they show her lying on this bed, and she's writhing around in agony, rubbing her face, and her legs are kicking and thrashing around from the pain. it was really disturbing.

julie said at January 12, 2006 9:44 PM:

i did a little research on those two scientists. That was Jamie Seymore and Theresa Carrette. Theresa was the cute blonde girl they showed thrashing around in pain on the hospital bed after being stung by the irukanji jellyfish. They were also on 60 minutes Australia which i found the transcript for (apparently they are like Australia's key jellyfish experts) , and one of the other researchers said she was writhing and convulsing from the pain for almost 48 hours.
Poor girl. Its bad enough to be in that much agony, but then then to have a camera in the room, filming you moaning and writhing, and in a bathing suit, nonetheless, for the world to see....
btw. i'm cancelling my trip to Australia.

Teresa said at March 23, 2006 9:52 PM:

Hi there. Couldn't help but post a comment when I found this site, seeing as I am the girl from the jellyfish scene you were just discussing. Yes, it is an amazing pain and one that does seem to stand alone in terms of its intensity and variation in how that pain is expressed. I did in fact suffer a relapse a week later and was on a whole variety of opiates for weeks after that sting. Considering I had been hospitilised twice previoulsy from stings from Irukandji jelyfish this was definately the worst. While it is still difficult to watch that footage it at least allows people to be exposed to a syndrome that until recent years was hardly heard of. Please don't let it put you off visiting us over here! Most of our locals don't bite and I am an exception to the rule as I am actively out there seeking these animals.
ps. Sorry I was disturbing...

julie said at April 18, 2006 1:55 PM:

Hi Teresa, thanks for responding to my post! dont worry, i was joking when i said i was cancelling my trip.(one of these days i will get out there but i'll definately be investing in a stinger suit if i do)
but it was still disturbing to see you like that. most shows about venemous creatures (like black widow spiders, for example) seem to talk about how painful the venom is, and feature some very dramatic re-enactments. But then when you see the real clips of actual people who are stung, they are coherant and calm, maybe occasionally grimacing or complaing to the doctor, or something like that.
so, when i saw that special on irukanji, i was kind of expecting the same sort of thing. thats why i found it so disturbing when they showed that clip of you writhing around like that. it really stuck with me because i cant imagine that type of pain.
btw.. you say that was your third sting!? oh my god! I totally admire your courage! i would have hung it up after sting #1!! :)

Drake said at April 19, 2006 4:01 PM:

I was browsing through google looking for this footage. We watched it in my biology class, and although I got a lot of it, it's hard to pay attention in high-school science hehe. I must say that it seemed like an unimaginable amount of pain, moreso for Theresa. I just have to ask, why didn't you dive with facemasks on the first attempt? The video almost made it seem like you didn't know what you were doing, especially the overdub clearly pointing out that there wasn't covering on your face. I know this isn't the case, as you are all very experienced scientists, but why go once without the masks, then again later on with them?

Also, is there anywhere to aquire a copy of this documentary? I can't find anywhere to buy anything from the Discovery Channel. I'll look some more, but I would appreciate the help.



frank said at April 24, 2006 7:26 PM:

hi drake.. i hope you were watching discovery channel this weekend. Killer Jellyfish was on this past saturday

raniya said at September 27, 2014 12:46 PM:

I am reading an article on facial nerves paralysis. Thanks for publishing this article. This one helped me learn about a new point which I didn't now before.

Dr. Franklyn said at February 11, 2015 6:31 AM:

Something new I learned reading the article!

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