Pain brings many clients to massage therapy. A new study shows African-American men with chronic pain related to an accident, injury, illness, surgery or other causes were more likely to experience depression, affective distress and disability than Caucasian men with chronic pain, according to researchers with the University of Michigan Health System.

The persistent pain African-American men experienced was more severe, which might lead to greater disability, but the study gives clues to other factors that drive the downward spiral to depression and disability, according to a university press release.

More than 1,600 men were part of the research study, and 6 percent were African-American men. Physical and personal characteristics about the men were collected with the Pain Assessment Inventory Narrative, the McGill Pain Questionnaire and other clinical surveys to assess pain.

Researchers analyzed a model based on health and lifestyle factors such as education, income, marital status, litigation, substance use and high blood pressure to determine which would lead to better or worse outcomes for men with chronic pain.

Seemingly unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol and caffeine use, which African-American men reported less often, were associated with better outcomes. But alcohol and caffeine are often social substances, the researchers say, and using either may indicate that men felt better and may still be involved in social activities.

This study is part of a body of work developed by U-M pain medicine physician and anesthesiologist Carmen R. Green, M.D., on racial disparities in the pain experience. Through previous research Green has shown that African-American women are more severely impacted by chronic pain.

“We revealed that black men are at increased risk for the worst consequences of chronic pain and larger studies are needed to examine the pain experience in this extremely understudied population,” Green says.

The findings are reported in the April issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association.

Related article:

CAM Use by Race, Ethnicity for Chronic Pain

How Persistent Pain Ages People

Research: Chronic Pain Changes Brain’s Response to Acute Pain