Perceived racial discrimination, but not mistrust of medical researchers, predicts the heat pain tolerance of african americans with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis

Academic Article


  • Objective: Studies have shown that perceived racial discrimination is a significant predictor of clinical pain severity among African Americans. It remains unknown whether perceived racial discrimination also alters the nociceptive processing of painful stimuli, which, in turn, could influence clinical pain severity. This study examined associations between perceived racial discrimination and responses to noxious thermal stimuli among African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites. Mistrust of medical researchers was also assessed given its potential to affect responses to the noxious stimuli. Method: One-hundred and 30 (52% African American, 48% non-Hispanic White) community-dwelling older adults with symptomatic knee osteoarthritis completed two study sessions. In session one, individuals provided demographic, socioeconomic, physical and mental health information. They completed questionnaires related to perceived lifetime frequency of racial discrimination and mistrust of medical researchers. In session two, individuals underwent a series of controlled thermal stimulation procedures. to assess heat pain sensitivity, particularly heat pain tolerance. Results: African Americans were more sensitive to heat pain and reported greater perceived racial discrimination as well as greater mistrust of medical researchers compared with non-Hispanic Whites. Greater perceived racial discrimination significantly predicted lower heat pain tolerance for African Americans but not non-Hispanic Whites. Mistrust of medical researchers did not significantly predict heat pain tolerance for either racial group. Conclusion: These results lend support to the idea that perceived racial discrimination may influence the clinical pain severity of African Americans via the nociceptive processing of painful stimuli. © 2013 American Psychological Association.
  • Published In

  • Health Psychology  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Goodin BR; Glover TL; King CD; Sibille KT; Cruz-Almeida Y; Staud R; Bradley LA; Pham QT; Sotolongo A; Herbert MS
  • Start Page

  • 1117
  • End Page

  • 1126
  • Volume

  • 32
  • Issue

  • 11