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Study Suggests Racial Differences in Coping with Chronic Osteoarthritis Pain


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent disease in older patients of all racial groups, and it is known to cause significant pain and functional disability. Total joint arthroplasty (TJA) effectively decreases the pain and disability from osteoarthritis of the hip and knee, and is generally recommended for patients with moderate to severe pain not successfully managed by non-surgical therapies. However, racial differences in how patients cope with the chronic pain of knee or hip OA may have implications for treatments such as joint replacement. This study examined the relationships between patient race and pain coping strategies (e.g., diverting attention, ignoring sensations, hoping and praying) for hip and knee osteoarthritis. Investigators surveyed 939 veterans (480 whites and 459 African Americans) with chronic, moderate to severe hip or knee OA pain who received care at two VA primary care clinics.

Findings show that compared to white veterans, African American veterans were much more likely to perceive prayer as helpful (85% vs. 66%) and were more likely to have tried it for hip or knee pain (73% vs. 55%). Race was not associated with arthritis pain self-efficacy, arthritis function self-efficacy, or any other coping strategies. This suggests that prayer may be an important factor in why African Americans receive less TJA.

PubMed Logo Jones A, Kwoh C, Groeneveld P, Mor M, Ging M, and Ibrahim S. Investigating racial differences in coping with chronic osteoarthritis pain. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology December 2008;23(4):339-347.

This study was funded by HSR&D. Dr. Groeneveld is supported by an HSR&D Career Development Award; all authors are part of HSR&D’s Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion in Pittsburgh/Philadelphia.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.