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Free Content Ethnicity, Culture and Pain: Can an Anthropological Perspective Aid Clinical Practice?

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There is a growing body of literature which discusses the effect of ethnicity and culture on pain. In a discussion on iCSP (2012) entitled 'Pain in an Asian Population' it was debated whether differences exist in pain severity amongst ethnic groups. The discussion highlighted important questions that are raised within clinical practice. This review summarises the types of research into culture, ethnicity and pain and explores the implication for clinical practice and the limitations of these research areas. This review then identifies anthropological perspectives on culture and the contributions to clinical practice.

Existing research into pain and culture is limited. Biomedical studies reflect a large degree of variation in design, study groups and outcome measures used and show contradictory results. This highlights the complexity of pain and culture. Beliefs and meanings surrounding pain are unique to individual experiences and are contextual. Wider issues such as socioeconomic and health care experiences may be important influences of pain reporting and expression.

Anthropology, in its study of human behaviour, recognises culture as complex and entwined with individual response to pain. One perspective is to recognise culture as a lens through which an individual makes sense of the world in relation to pain and suffering. This perspective places the individual at the forefront of assessment and treatment. Using a biopsychosocial approach to understanding individuals' own beliefs, within the wider framework of culture, allows healthcare to steer away from generalisations. This supports the ability to balance findings in research to the application and enhancement of clinical practice.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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  • Pain and Rehabilitation is a peer-reviewed, Bi-annual journal of the Physiotherapy Pain Association and special interest group of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. The journal comprises a range of different articles types from orignial articles to systematic reviews and letters around the topic of pain and rehabilitation. The journal is multidisciplinary in its focus and welcomes submissions from all professionals working in this multidisciplinary field. the abstract of all articles will be freely avilable online. Full text articles are available free online to members of the Physiotherapy Pain Association, and access to individual PDF articles can be purchased by non members.
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