Women fighting pain are looking for answers

LOS ANGELES Women from all walks of life came together at the City of Hope Medical Center to share stories about the two things they have in common: chronic pain and feeling shunned.

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"I was told I was crazy and hysterical. I was told it was all in my mind," said Mindy Meyer.

Mindy Meyer, 41, developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy after a minor shoulder injury. The condition, also known as complex regional pain syndrome, is characterized by an overactive nervous system and severe burning pain.

"It's amazing how an act that seems so simple everyday can change your life," said Mindy Meyer.

Mindy and others like her teamed up with healthcare providers to help bridge the pain-gender divide. RSD patient Cynthia Toussaint is a crusader for women in pain.

"We need to be in the same learning environment so that we can break down barriers and understand each other," said Toussaint.

Studies show women do suffer from more pain related diseases than men. And due to biological and hormonal differences, researchers say the pain experience is not the same.

"There is a biological component, but there is also a cultural, psychological and sociological component to how we express or report pain," said pain researcher Diane Hoffmann.

"You really need somebody to listen and understand and feel like they are empathizing with you. I think that is a lot of what healing is," said Dr. Katrina Vlachos.

Many women in pain feel alone, isolated and even alienated by their doctors, so just feeling taken seriously or acknowledged feels like a victory.

"The day I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia was the happiest day of my life. I then had a name for something and something I could go after," said Gayle Willaims.

The main message for women in pain is that you are not alone, so stand up and be heard.

"You can't give up because there is something in your life that is worth living for and you just to hold onto that and keep fighting," said Meyer.

Topics at the Women in Pain Conference included tips for better pain care, art and music therapy and dealing with pain and cancer.


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