Ethnic Differences in Experimental Pain Responses Following a Paired Verbal Suggestion With Saline Infusion: A Quasiexperimental Study

Janelle Letzen, Troy C. Dildine, Chung Jung Mun, Luana Colloca, Stephen Bruehl, Claudia M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Ethnic differences in placebo and nocebo responses are an important, yet underresearched, patient factor that might contribute to treatment disparities. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine ethnic differences in pain trajectories following a verbal suggestion paired with a masked, inert substance (i.e., saline). METHODS: Using a quasiexperimental design, we examined differences between 21 non-Hispanic Black (NHB) participants and 20 non-Hispanic White (NHW) participants in capsaicin-related pain rating trajectories following a nondirectional verbal suggestion + saline infusion. All participants were told that the substance would "either increase pain sensation, decrease it, or leave it unchanged." A spline mixed model was used to quantify the interaction of ethnicity and time on ratings. RESULTS: There was a significant Ethnicity × Time interaction effect (β = -0.28, p = .002); NHB individuals reported significantly greater increases in pain following, but not before, the verbal suggestion + saline infusion. Sensitivity analyses showed no change in primary results based on differences in education level, general pain sensitivity, or condition order. CONCLUSIONS: The present results showed ethnic differences in pain response trajectories following a verbal suggestion + saline infusion and suggest that future research rigorously examining possible ethnic differences in placebo/nocebo responses is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-64
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Volume55
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 12 2021

Keywords

  • Ethnic difference
  • Experimental pain
  • Nocebo
  • Pain disparities
  • Placebo
  • Spline model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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