The gender pain gap: why musculoskeletal pain is more common in women than men

The gender pain gap: why musculoskeletal pain is more common in women than men

1.7 billion people worldwide are currently suffering from musculoskeletal (MSK) pain. Issues like back pain and neck strain affect people of all ages, genders and occupations, but research shows that women are more likely to experience pain than men.

Musculoskeletal pain is most common in women above middle age, with 40% of women aged 55 to 64 years old seeking medical attention for their pain. However, studies show that women of all ages are more likely to report pain lasting for a longer duration, multiple pains in different regions of the body and more frequent, severe levels of pain than men.

All references to ‘women’ in this blog are inclusive of anyone who identifies as a woman, including trans, non-binary and other gender identities.

The gender gap in musculoskeletal (MSK) pain 

There are over 200 conditions that affect our MSK health, with certain conditions affecting women more predominantly than others. Women are more likely than men to experience pain in the following areas of the body:

  • Knees
  • Lower back 
  • Pelvis 
  • Wrists and hands 

Various biological, workplace and lifestyle factors make women more susceptible to MSK pain:

  • Hormones – the fluctuations in hormones during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause can influence your pain sensitivity and inflammatory response.
  • Muscle mass – women typically have a lower muscle mass-to-fat ratio than men, which can increase the likelihood of muscle strain and pain.
  • Bone structure – various parts of the female body such as the pelvis are structured differently to the male body, making women more prone to postural challenges. 
  • Workplace ergonomics – women are more susceptible to desk-related pain as workplace environments and equipment are often designed to fit male norms.

Did you know? Knee pain is four to eight times more common in women than men. In the workplace, this is often exacerbated by working at a desk too high, leaving your feet dangling above the ground – a footrest can help prevent this! 

5 tips to bridge the gender gap in musculoskeletal (MSK) pain

No matter your gender, age or occupation, there are simple steps you can take to look after your MSK health:

  • Improve your posture – Poor posture can put extra stress on your joints and muscles. Over time, this can lead to pain and injury. Adopting good posture while you sit, stand and exercise will reduce your risk of injury and help you stay pain-free. 

Download our handy infographic to learn how to adopt good posture whilst working at a desk.

  • Regular Physical Activity – Exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do to maintain your physical health. Even a few short bursts of light activity can make a big difference over time. VIDA Pain Coach is a personalised pain management programme. It provides tailored stretching exercises to help you stay active and keep pain at bay.
VIDA Pain coach
  • Get enough sleep Sleep is an essential ingredient for all aspects of your health. It allows your body to repair and regenerate. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night to improve your overall wellbeing.
  • Healthy diet – Keep your bones and joints healthy with a diet that is rich in calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients.
  • Improve your workplace setup – We already mentioned that certain working environments and equipment are often designed to fit male norm. This can expose women to an increased risk of desk-related pain. In most cases, these issues are preventable with small adjustments to your workplace, such as the addition of a footstool. With VIDA’s AI webcam assessment and interactive desk planner, you can assess your workspace in minutes. You’ll receive instant, personalised recommendations to improve your posture and desk setup.
webcam assessment
VIDA desk planner

For more information on how VIDA can help you bridge the gender pain gap in your team, get in touch with us at or try out VIDA yourself for free!

Content Marketing Manager

Marisa has over 7 years of experience writing about a range of clinical topics including DSE, hybrid working and employee wellbeing. Check out more of Marisa's articles on the Vitrue Health blog!

Related Posts

Never miss out!

Join our waitlist by entering your email below and we’ll let you know as soon as we upload our latest webinar.

    Get workplace insights straight to your inbox

    Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to get exclusive compliance and wellbeing updates.