Ethnicity, Catastrophizing, and Qualities of the Pain Experience

Authors

  • Lacy A. Fabian PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centers for Public Health Research and Evaluation, Battelle Memorial Institute, Maryland
    • L. Fabian, PhD, Centers for Public Health Research and Evaluation, Battelle, Suite 200, 6115 Falls Rd., Baltimore, MD 21209, USA. Tel: 410-372-2731; Fax: 614-458-0661; E-mail: fabianl@battelle.org.

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  • Lynanne McGuire PhD,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Burel R. Goodin PhD,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • Robert R. Edwards PhD

    1. Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Pain Management Center, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA
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Abstract

Objective.  It is generally well established that catastrophizing exerts a potent influence on individuals' experience of pain and accompanying emotional distress. Further, preliminary evidence has shown that meaningful differences among various pain relevant outcomes (e.g., pain ratings, endogenous pain inhibitory processes) can be attributed to individuals' ethnic background. The mechanisms that might explain ethnic differences in pain outcomes are unclear, and it remains to be fully established whether the relation between ethnicity and pain response may be indirectly affected by pain catastrophizing.

Design.  In the current study, we examined differences in pain responses by ethnicity among healthy, young adults (N  = 62), and attempted to determine whether such an ethnicity–pain relation was mediated by catastrophizing using the standard Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS) and a modified version of the PCS reflecting situational catastrophizing during a cold pressor task.

Results.  Results showed that pain responses varied by ethnicity, as did reported catastrophizing. Catastrophizing mediated the relation between ethnicity and affective and sensory pain responses.

Conclusions.  To better explicate our findings, we described the context in which these findings occurred following a “who, what, where, when, and why” approach. This approach provides an efficient description of how our findings align with previous research, while identifying future research that should clarify the theoretical underpinnings of catastrophizing and pain and also inform clinical intervention.

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