Differences in chronic pain care receipt among veterans from differing racialized groups and the impact of rural versus urban residence

J Rural Health. 2023 Jun;39(3):595-603. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12744. Epub 2023 Jan 25.


Purpose: The current study aimed to identify differences in Veterans Affairs (VA) chronic pain care for Black, Asian, and Hispanic Americans, compared to non-Hispanic White Americans, and examine the intersection of race and rurality.

Methods: Using national administrative data, all veterans who presented to the VA for chronic pain in 2018 were included. Demographic and comorbidity variables were built from 2018 data and health care utilization variables from 2019 data. Multivariate log-binomial regression models examined differences between racialized groups, and interactions with rural/urban residence, for each health care utilization variable.

Findings: The full cohort included 2,135,216 veterans with chronic pain. There were no differences between racialized groups in pain-related primary care visits. Black Americans were less likely to receive pain clinic visits (aRR = 0.87, CI: 0.86-0.88). Rurality further decreased the likelihood of Black Americans visiting a pain clinic. Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans were more likely to receive pain-related physical therapy visits relative to White Americans. Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to present to emergency/urgent care for chronic pain. While there were no differences in pain-related primary care visits, the decreased likelihood of pain clinic visits and increased use of emergency department/urgent care among Black Americans could indicate inadequate management of chronic pain.

Conclusions: Tailored strategies are needed to provide equitable care that meets the needs of patients from racialized groups while accounting for systemic and cultural factors.

Keywords: administrative data; chronic pain; racial disparities; veteran.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain* / epidemiology
  • Chronic Pain* / therapy
  • Humans
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Urban Population
  • Veterans*
  • White