Last week, while doing some repair work at home, I accidentally hit my thumb with a hammer. I’m a fairly large man, and I’ve always prided myself on being pretty tough, but I’ll say this – it really hurt man. My wife in the next room, heard my cry of surprise and pain, and came rushing in to see what all the ruckus was about. After assessing the situation, checking my thumb, seeing I was okay, and realizing my injury was minor, she grinned and said, “Does mommy’s little guy need me to kiss, and make his boo boo all better?”
I replied, “Honey, there’s no need to be sarcastic.” She then looked at me with one of those looks that wives will often give their husbands. I think they practice them in front of a mirror, so they can get it just right. Her expression, demeanor, and the arms folded in front of her chest, seemed to be saying, “Patrick Dykie. You had me scared to death. For all the noise you were making, I thought you might have been the unfortunate victim of a horrifying, and debilitating chainsaw accident. I was this….. close to checking on your life insurance policy, calling Goodwill to pick up all your clothes, and joining a widow’s support group.” All I could think to say was,
“But it really hurt!”
This incident, got me thinking about the differences between men and women when it comes to our ability to tolerate extreme pain. I did some research on the internet, and read about studies which have tried to determine which sex can tolerate more pain. I found out, the subject is more complicated than I thought, and many of the results from research studies are inconclusive. I also learned of the difference between pain thresholds, and pain tolerance. Basically the first is at what level or threshold do you start complaining about your pain, and the second is the total amount you can actually stand without suffering physical and psychological damage.
A study by researchers at Stanford University in 2012, found that women feel pain more intensely, and also experience more pain in general during their lifetimes. I can agree with that conclusion. My wife’s been married to me for over twenty-three years. I hate to say it, but it doesn’t get more painful than that! I was also present at the birth of my youngest son. After twelve long hours in labor, and suffering what can only be described as unbelievable pain; my wife gave birth, to what at first, appeared to be an over-sized bowling ball. It’s painful, just thinking about it. The more I’ve researched the subject, I’ve become convinced that men do have fairly high pain thresholds, and can tolerate large doses of pain. I think we just complain about it a lot more.
I will admit that my wife handles pain a lot better than me. She recently slipped on ice and hurt her foot. After a few days, one or two trips to the gym, a long walk, and three days at work, she got her foot checked out and learned it had been broken. When I said, Honey, hasn’t your foot been hurting you,” she simply said, “What good does complaining do?” I can answer that. It feels pretty darn good – at least for me. My wife has always faced any type of pain better than me. She’ll get a cramp in her leg that could cripple a horse, and she limps around the house without a word. I get the same type of cramp, and I’m messed up for hours, ready to hit the emergency room, and eating ibuprofen likes its candy. If she gets a piece of wood in her finger, she’ll put on her glasses, and spend fifteen minutes stoically and meticulously digging it out of her flesh with a long, sharp, sewing needle. I get a similar piece of wood in my finger, and I’m hysterically running through the house yelling, “Tweezers, tweezers.”
For years, I took kickboxing classes with a master of the martial arts. We were taught to either ignore pain or train our bodies to accept it. We did a drill in which we raised our hands over our heads, and then had one of our classmates punch us in our unprotected midsection. I was told that the human body has a fight or flight mechanism. When pain is introduced to our body’s pain receptors, its natural reaction is to instinctively pull back and possibly run from the unwanted sensation. The purpose of the drill, was to slowly acclimate our bodies to pain. Over time, we would build up a higher pain threshold, and be able to not flinch, at even the highest levels of excruciating pain. After a year of suffering through many hours of this drill, along with thousands of punches, multiple bruises, and unbearable pain, I can say this. It didn’t work!
Before, I move on to my next simple observation, I have a question. Have any of you ever been in a room full of men and women, when one of the guys spills something hot on himself? What happens when he starts making a fuss, and whining to everyone about how much it hurts? If you guessed that multiple women rush to his aid, in the hope of relieving his pain, and possibly providing comfort, you’d be wrong. Most likely, you’ll witness complete silence among the women, knowing looks to each other, and slight nods of their heads. If you could read all their minds at that exact moment, you’d probably hear the same thing – “What a big baby.”
I was wondering about something. Do women ever get back aches? It seems only men wander around like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, holding their lower spine, acting pitiful, and complaining? I should know. I’ve been doing it all day since I lifted that bag of sugar the wrong way, early this morning. I know what you’re thinking ladies – but it really hurts.