The Relationship between Acculturation and Experimental Pain Sensitivity in Asian Americans with Knee Osteoarthritis

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Multiple studies in healthy populations and clinical samples have shown that ethnic minorities have greater pain sensitivity than their majority counterparts. Acculturation is speculated to be one of the sociocultural factors contributing to pain sensitivity since cultural beliefs and practices can influence the way patients perceive and respond to pain. However, the relationship of acculturation to pain sensitivity in minority populations remains poorly understood. Therefore, in this cross-sectional study, we examined the relationship between acculturation and experimental pain sensitivity in 50 Asian Americans residing in North Central Florida with knee osteoarthritis pain. The Suinn-Lew Asian Self Identity Acculturation Scale was used to assess acculturation, and multimodal quantitative sensory testing was performed to measure experimental sensitivity, including heat pain tolerance, pressure pain threshold, and punctate mechanical pain. Descriptive and regression analyses were performed. Participants' mean age was 55.7 years, and about half of this sample were Korean American (56%). The participants had lived in the United States for 21 years on average. Regression analyses indicated that lower acculturation to American culture may contribute to greater experimental pain sensitivity. Asian Americans who were more acculturated to the American culture had higher heat pain tolerance (beta = 0.61, P=0.01), higher pressure pain threshold (beta = 0.59, P=0.02), and lower ratings of punctate mechanical pain (beta = -0.70, P<0.01). These findings add to the literature regarding sociocultural factors associated with pain in Asian Americans; additional research with a larger and more diverse sample of Asian Americans is warranted for cross-validation.




Ahn, H., Sorkpor, S. K., Kim, M., Miao, H., Zhong, C., Wang, J., … Fillingim, R. B. (2018). The Relationship between Acculturation and Experimental Pain Sensitivity in Asian Americans with Knee Osteoarthritis. Pain Research and Management, 2018.

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