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Differences in Clinical Pain and Experimental Pain Sensitivity Between Asian Americans and Whites With Knee Osteoarthritis

Ahn, Hyochol PhD, ARNP, ANP-BC; Weaver, Michael PhD; Lyon, Debra E. PhD; Kim, Junglyun RN; Choi, Eunyoung RN; Staud, Roland MD; Fillingim, Roger B. PhD

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0000000000000378
Original Articles

Objective: Ethnicity has been associated with clinical and experimental pain responses. Whereas ethnic disparities in pain in other minority groups compared with whites are well described, pain in Asian Americans remains poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to characterize differences in clinical pain intensity and experimental pain sensitivity among older Asian American and non-Hispanic white (NHW) participants with knee osteoarthritis (OA).

Methods: Data were collected from 50 Asian Americans ages 45 to 85 (28 Korean, 9 Chinese, 7 Japanese, 5 Filipino, and 1 Indian) and compared with 50 age-matched and sex-matched NHW individuals with symptomatic knee OA pain. The Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index and Graded Chronic Pain Scale were used to assess the intensity of clinical knee pain. In addition, quantitative sensory testing was used to measure experimental sensitivity to heat-induced and mechanically induced pain.

Results: Asian American participants had significantly higher levels of clinical pain intensity than NHW participants with knee OA. In addition, Asian American participants had significantly higher experimental pain sensitivity than NHW participants with knee OA.

Discussion: These findings add to the growing literature regarding ethnic and racial differences in clinical pain intensity and experimental pain sensitivity. Asian Americans in particular may be at risk for clinical pain and heightened experimental pain sensitivity. Further investigation is needed to identify the mechanisms underlying ethnic group differences in pain between Asian Americans and NHWs, and to ensure that ethnic group disparities in pain are ameliorated.

*College of Nursing

College of Medicine, University of Florida

University of Florida Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence, Gainesville, FL

This study was funded by the University of Florida Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Clinical Research Pilot Project Award (Gainesville, FL), supported in part by the NIH/NCATS Clinical and Translational Science Award to the University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) UL1 TR000064, and by the NIH/NIA grant R37AG033906. The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Hyochol Ahn, PhD, ARNP, ANP-BC, Department of Family, Community and Health System Science, College of Nursing, University of Florida, P.O. Box 100197, 1225 Center Drive, Gainesville, FL 32610-0197 (e-mail: hcahn@ufl.edu).

Received November 30, 2015

Received in revised form May 18, 2016

Accepted March 9, 2016

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