Multiple Levels of Suffering: Discrimination in Health-Care Settings is Associated with Enhanced Laboratory Pain Sensitivity in Sickle Cell Disease

Vani A. Mathur, Kasey B. Kiley, Carlton Haywood, Shawn M. Bediako, Sophie Lanzkron, C. Patrick Carroll, Luis F. Buenaver, Megan Pejsa, Robert R. Edwards, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite, Claudia M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: People living with sickle cell disease (SCD) experience severe episodic and chronic pain and frequently report poor interpersonal treatment within health-care settings. In this particularly relevant context, we examined the relationship between perceived discrimination and both clinical and laboratory pain. Methods: Seventy-one individuals with SCD provided self-reports of experiences with discrimination in health-care settings and clinical pain severity, and completed a psychophysical pain testing battery in the laboratory. Results: Discrimination in health-care settings was correlated with greater clinical pain severity and enhanced sensitivity to multiple laboratory-induced pain measures, as well as stress, depression, and sleep. After controlling for relevant covariates, discrimination remained a significant predictor of mechanical temporal summation (a marker of central pain facilitation), but not clinical pain severity or suprathreshold heat pain response. Furthermore, a significant interaction between experience with discrimination and clinical pain severity was associated with mechanical temporal summation; increased experience with discrimination was associated with an increased correlation between clinical pain severity and temporal summation of pain. Discussion: Perceived discrimination within health-care settings was associated with pain facilitation. These findings suggest that discrimination may be related to increased central sensitization among SCD patients, and more broadly that health-care social environments may interact with pain pathophysiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1076-1085
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Journal of Pain
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 28 2016



  • Clinical pain
  • patient provider interaction
  • quantitative sensory testing
  • racial discrimination
  • temporal summation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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