… and other ways the medical field is skewed against women. It needs to change.

In a previous blog I spoke about how female complaints of pain are really not taken seriously, still, now! I have rarely been to a doctors appointment prior to my diagnosis without the insinuation it’s “just period-related” when there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer – as if that’s something we should just put up with too!! But something else I saw doing the rounds lately was that disc herniation is more common in men, and it just didn’t sound right so I tried to investigate the source of this “fact” and found nothing! So I turned to the brilliant physios of Twitter to ask, and it seems I was right. It’s TOTAL BS!! I have no idea where this may have come from so if you have been told this during your training or read it in a text book, do let me know so we can correct it and stop misinformation circulating unquestioned. To quote my reliable source: “To suggest a mechanical degenerative process in a spinal disc is dependent on sex is unfounded. Think the “we” who told you this may not be trustworthy.”

So I then started thinking about all the other ways women are short changed and it’s really quite shocking how everything is still based around the “average MAN”. (I’d like not to get into a debate on gender here so for the purposes of the blog I’m using man/woman as just birth genders based on chromosomes). 

Perhaps when physio text books were first written, therapists were told that disc herniation was caused by repeated heavy lifting (it’s not) and back in the dark ages it was more likely that men did the manual jobs and our understanding of the spine was limited. Maybe, I thought, maybe this is the thought process. If that’s the case then it’s not only wrong but now obviously grossly outdated AND still just states a “fact” without context! Saying ‘something is more common in men’ implies that it is someone to do with sex that predisposes you to that thing rather than a set of environmental risk factors. You may well, therefore, have clinicians dismissing women’s back pain (as has happened to me with AS) because it would be too unusual for a woman to have this issue. So that makes it not only wrong but dangerous.

  • In my 8-year+ journey for the Ankylosing Spondylitis diagnosis I am constantly fighting the premise that it’s more common in men. Even today the statistics state that rather than the previously thought ratio of 10:1, we are closer to 3:1 male to female incidence. But I truly believe that even this is grossly exaggerated because of the differences in symptoms men and women present, different reaction to medications and the fact women are still always grossly under represented in the studies! HOW can you get an accurate picture of anything if you don’t have a 50/50 test population? I believe there are a huge number more women being ignored because they don’t have the classic fusion but more inflammation and radiographic symptoms which are more difficult to see on imaging and of course, women are less likely to be believed about severity of pain in the first place! To back up my though