Racial differences in pain treatment found

CHICAGO African Americans may be disproportionately missing out on effective treatment for their chronic pain -- from arthritis to backaches -- and as a result suffering outsize effects on their ability to work, play and enjoy life, a new study finds.

New research results on pain differences between blacks and whites show that, for example, black women are much more likely than white women to have severe pain and related mental health effects when they finally seek treatment from pain specialists. Blacks also had more barriers to getting effective pain care.

Those findings, from pain researchers at the University of Michigan who are among the first to study racial disparities in chronic pain and its treatment, are being presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Pain Society.

And although the researchers have not yet found precise reasons for the differences between blacks and whites in how they perceive and handle pain, they suspect that many factors, including economic and cultural ones, are at work. They have additional studies under way to further explore the impact of chronic pain on racial and ethnic minorities.

"Overall, African Americans with chronic pain have significantly more symptoms than whites when they first seek pain treatment, as well as more pain, depression and impairment in their physical, emotional and social health," says lead researcher Carmen Green, M.D., an anesthesiologist and assistant professor in the U-M Health System's Department of Anesthesiology and pain specialist at the U-M's Multidisciplinary Pain Center. "This has tremendous implications for their quality of life and overall health."

Green and her colleagues studied African American and Caucasian men and women who were seen at the U-M pain center for chronic pain in recent years. Using standardized survey questionnaires, 3,132 white and 345 black women were asked about their pain, emotional health and disability level. '"/>

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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