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Cultural Differences in Expression of Pain, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

How Different Cultures Express Pain and React To It

Pain is an inexorable fact of human existence. Pain is a subjective and the collective experience that all individuals encounter regardless of their age and culture. Pain does not have a holistic approach in its treatment. Pain originates from a Latin word poena, which means suffering, punishment and consequence (Vance, 2004, p.29). Although each individual experiences pain sensations in a similar manner, there are different ways in which different people express the pain they feel. Personal and cultural meanings are also vital in the experience and dealing with pain. Culture considerably affects both the assessment and management of individuals in pain. Cultural backgrounds provide a major influence in the way individual perceive and react to painful situations. Pain has both cultural and personal meaning. Although the pain may be similar from one person to another, pain response differs spectacularly.

The way culture influences the expression of pain from one individual to another begins at birth and extends throughout the life of the individual. The interpretation of pain and reacting to it is greatly dependent on the experience of the individual, the family behavior, and the attitudes and anxieties established earlier. Therefore, cultural differences in pain expression are more or less likely to arise from social factors as compared to genetic differences.

Responses to pain have two categories, stoic and emotive. Stoic patients are express less their pain and often grin and bear it. They often withdraw socially in times of pain. Emotive patients verbalize their expressions of pain. They desire the people around them to react to their pain and assist them in their suffering. Expressive patients come from Hispanic, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean areas. The stoic patients come from Northern European and Asian backgrounds.

Scandinavians are tough and stoic, and have a high tolerance to pain. The British are more sensitive to pain, but in view of stiff upper lip, they do not complain when in pain. Italians and other people from the Mediterranean are emotional and overreact to pain. The Jews, on the other hand, both overreact to pain, and are often preoccupied with pain and suffering as well as physical health. Culture differences in the acceptability of pain and expression of distress is related to high pain reports among the Hispanics a compares to Caucasians.  Hispanics report more pain relating to their health problems as compares to Caucasians, especially during depressions (Hernandez & Sachs-Ericsson, 2008).

Religious perspectives also add analyses in the role that pain plays in one’s life. In some cultures, they look onto pains and its endurance as enviable disciplines and experiences that are worth. This is in relation to the pain Christ endured, making some Christians view pain as an ideal Christian practice, which they embrace, as it is an attempt to identify them with Christ the Savior. This may be through sickness or to some they induce it through self-chastisement.

The Mexican race and culture is rapidly growing in the United States. This massive growth promotes the study of the Mexican cultures and believes. The vast majority of the Mexican population attributes to the rituals and beliefs of the Roman Catholic. Among the Mexican, health illness and pain come from God, imbalances of hot-cold and wet-dry, and luck as a reward from God. The experience of pain in the Mexican culture varies from one individual to another.

The expression of pain is a self-help relief mechanism to strong feelings and emotional expressions that one feels. This reaction is similar in both males and females. However, men seem to like acting tough, which often causes problems especially when one requires medical interventions. Mexican men hold on to machismo. Despite the presence of Machismo in the Mexican society, it is put aside when one is in pain. Most Mexicans prefer to endure pain, posing a challenge to the health care team in keeping the patient comfortable. As religion prevails in the culture, some patients often do not want pain relief, as they believe pain is an act of God and is something that should be endured.

The African-Americans have a record of immigration and being treated cruelly in the United States. Slavery is the significant portion of their history and contributed in shaping the views of segregation and racism. The culture of the African-Americans has developed with influence from the British-American culture (Gary, Arango-Lasprilla, & Stevens, 2009). Their beliefs in health and illness are almost similar to those of the Mexican-Americans. To them, health is a condition that one obtains when he/she is at harmony with nature. They also view good health as a gift and blessing from God. In this culture, health is important and they give priority to having regular medical check-ups, eating proper diets, exercising, and having adequate sleep.

African-Americans express pain openly and publically voice it out. To relief pain, they accept and administer medication. Patients are very cautious not to portray that they have severe pain until the pain is under control (Gaston-Johansson, Hill-Briggs, Oguntomilade, Bradley & Mason, 2007). The doctor of healthcare professional has a task of monitoring the patient since the patient does not express the pain. Some patients also do not fill in the pain prescription, as they believe that God will take care of that. Some African-Americans also use folk healers and herbs in relieving pain (Gary, Arango-Lasprilla, & Stevens, 2009).

The Chinese-Americans immigrated into the United States in the late 1800s during the Gold rush in California and ceased after the enacting of the federal law. Their culture presents the reaction to pain stoically. To them, showing emotions such as pain and anger is a sign of weakness in one’s character. In their culture, one’s reputation is the most important. They present themselves as perfect patients as they suppress their pain and stress suffering quietly. The Chinese do not believe in accepting anything after the first offer even if it is medication. Therefore, patients get treatment on an individual basis. Just as other cultures, there is the fear of getting addicted to pain medication. They believe that pain is inevitable, and medication cannot provide adequate relief.

In conclusion, we can say that, although nearly all people undergo pain feelings similarly, there are enormous differences in the way people express pain. Both personal and cultural denotations are important in the experience and treatment of pain. Culture drastically influences both the assessment and care given to people in pain. Several factors influence the disparities in pain management. Understanding how these factors influence effective ain management among ethnic minorities is essential. This help in developing tailored interventions to eliminate racial disparities in pain (Shavers, PhD, Bakos, PhD & Sheppard, PhD, 2010).

References

Vance, L.M.F. (2004). The Role of Culture in the Pain Experience. Surgical Physician Assistant, 10(9), 29-37.

Gaston-Johansson F, Hill-Briggs F, Oguntomilade L, Bradley V, & Mason P. (2007).

Patient perspectives on disparities in healthcare from African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American samples including a secondary analysis of the Institute of Medicine focus group data. J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 2007 Dec;18(2):43-52.   <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18318331>

Shavers V.L., PhD, Bakos A., PhD & Sheppard V. B., PhD. (2010). Race, Ethnicity, and

Pain among the U.S. Adult Population. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.Volume 21, Number 1, February 2010 E-ISSN: 1548-6869 Print ISSN: 1049-2089.

Gary K.W, Arango-Lasprilla J.C, & Stevens L.F. (2009). “Do racial/ethnic differences

exist in post-injury outcomes after TBI? A comprehensive review of the literature.” Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23219, USA. Web 19 October 2011 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19697166>

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