Racial-Ethnic Differences in Osteoarthritis Pain and Disability: A Meta-Analysis

J Pain. 2019 Jun;20(6):629-644. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2018.11.012. Epub 2018 Dec 10.


Osteoarthritis (OA), a leading cause of disability and pain, affects 32.5 million Americans, producing tremendous economic burden. Although some findings suggest that racial/ethnic minorities experience increased OA pain severity, other studies have shown conflicting results. This meta-analysis examined differences in clinical pain severity between African Americans (AAs) and non-Hispanic whites with OA. Articles were initially identified between October 1 and 5, 2016, and updated May 30, 2018, using PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Library Database. Eligibility included English-language peer-reviewed articles comparing clinical pain severity in adult black/AA and non-Hispanic white/Caucasian patients with OA. Nonduplicate article abstracts (N = 1,194) were screened by 4 reviewers, 224 articles underwent full-text review, and 61 articles reported effect sizes of pain severity stratified by race. Forest plots of the standard mean difference showed higher pain severity in AAs for studies using the Western Ontario and McMasters Universities Osteoarthritis Index (0.57; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.54-0.61) and non-Western Ontario and McMasters Universities Osteoarthritis Index studies (0.35, 95% CI, 0.23-0.47). AAs also showed higher self-reported disability (0.38, 95% CI, 0.22-0.54) and poorer performance testing (-0.58, 95% CI, -0.72 to -0.44). Clinical pain severity and disability in OA is higher among AAs and future studies should explore the reasons for these differences to improve pain management. PERSPECTIVE: This meta-analysis shows that differences exist in clinical pain severity, functional limitations, and poor performance between AAs and non-Hispanic whites with OA. This research may lead to a better understanding of racial/ethnic differences in OA-related pain.

Keywords: Disability; Meta-analysis; Osteoarthritis; Pain; Race/ethnicity.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • African Americans
  • Disability Evaluation
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis / complications*
  • Pain / ethnology*
  • Pain / etiology*