Culture and Pain

The experience of pain is as old as recorded history. The ways in which people conceptualize and treat pain have varied across space and time. Cultural and social factors are the foundation for the expression and treatment of pain, especially pain caused by traumatic injury.

The prevalence of pain will continue to grow as people are treated for diseases that were previously were fatal. Most of the top ten causes of death such as heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory diseases are associated with pain. Presently 7% to 50% of Americans suffer from some type of pain and 1 in 6 live in chronic pain. Chronic pain is estimated to cost 90 billion dollars per year in the United States. Healthcare providers are not uniformly trained in the treatment of pain. Factors such as age, ethnicity, family history, sex roles, anxiety, depression, cognitive factors, sociocultural differences influence pain and how it is treated. It has been observed that minorities report more pain, increased severity of pain and are more likely to be disabled from pain. It has been reported in Michigan that pharmacies in minority predominant zip codes were 52 times less likely to carry sufficient opioid analgesics than were pharmacies in white predominant zip codes regardless of incomes.

Belonging to a particular ethnic group makes an individual respond to pain differently and receive different pain treatment . Culture is the framework that directs human behavior in a given situation. The meaning and expression of pain are influenced by people’s cultural background. Pain is not just a physiologic response to tissue damage but also includes emotional and behavioral responses based on people’s past experiences and perceptions o f pain. Not everyone in every culture conforms to a set of expected behaviors or beliefs, so trying to categorize a person into a particular stereotype will lead to inaccuracies. However, knowledge of a individual’s culture may help to better understand their behavior.

In particular, women are at risk of having their pain undertreated and poorly assessed. Women have a higher prevalence of most chronic pain conditions, including widespread pain, regional pain, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and tension headache.


At the Edward A Smith Law Offices, we understand your pain. We have counseled numerous acute and chronic pain patients that have suffered injury from a motor vehicle accident and or other types of personal injury. We have empathy, compassion, and understanding of your pain. In addition to practicing law and handling your case with the utmost in experience and expertise, we have a referral network with a team of professionals including doctors, chiropractors,surgeons, and physical therapists.