Black women with chronic pain have more psychological and physical distress

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Black women with chronic pain experience more psychological distress, physical impairments and post-traumatic stress disorder than white women with chronic pain, a finding that researchers say should help lead to a narrowing of the gap in the treatment of chronic pain between black and white women.

New research from the University of Michigan Health System, published in the current issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association, suggests that black women with chronic pain have particular needs that should be addressed through the access to and quality of pain care.

"Although more than one in five Americans live with chronic pain, women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain conditions than men. Overall, their pain complaints receive less attention than the pain complaints from men. What we have found in this research is that there are further differences in the chronic pain experience between black and white women," says Carmen R. Green, M.D. "This study has significant public health implications as well as significant socio-economic and familial implications when studying and managing chronic pain in black women.

"In addition to ensuring adequate access to quality pain care and improving pain assessment, optimizing pain management has the tremendous potential to reduce the mental health gap between black and white women with chronic pain," says Green, associate professor in the U-M Medical School's Department of Anesthesiology and pain specialist at the U-M Health System's Center for Interventional Pain Medicine.

The study involved responses from 1,192 women with chronic pain, about 91 percent of them white and 9 percent of black. Black women in the study were more likely to report disability due to pain (44 percent versus 37 percent), and to say that pain interfered with recreational (8 percent versus 7 percent), sexual (7.4 percent versus 6.1 percent), social (7 percent versus 6 percent) and other

Contact: Katie Gazella or Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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