Pain is a concept we talked about very early in this semester. We explored how childbirth experiences tend to be portrayed negatively in American culture / sitcoms and how it is very much exaggerated. I think we pretty much came to the conclusion that pain tolerance differs from person to person. This also seems to be a truth at which even researchers have arrived because they seem to find it a little difficult to adequately measure pain. It’s just so subjective. Nevertheless, I became curious about it because we recently had our pain lecture in Fundamentals class, and an Asian girl in the class said she felt that Asians had high pain tolerance. She said that she had never taken pain medication. I was really shocked at her admission, especially when I thought about the horrible pain I experience during menses – Motrin is my best friend! Based on this, I decided to take a peek at the literature about pain tolerance in Asians. Surprisingly, pain tolerance in Asians is under the radar in terms of research. I couldn’t find much about it. I did find a source that talked about it being important for Asians to be quiet during childbirth, but this does not suggest higher pain tolerance necessarily. I also found this literature review (http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/38/12/1184.full) that compared the level of pain tolerance in Asian patients with the pain tolerance in European patients following upper abdominal surgery. It found that Asian patients required less postop analgesia than the European patients. The review contends that this could be due to cultural and psychological factors such as Asians being more prepared / expected to tolerate more pain or differences in pain perception. However, the pain scores between the two groups were similar throughout treatment (although it was not indicated how they were obtained), so the results do not seem very conclusive. Regardless, the Asian patients did exhibit a higher pain tolerance, but there’s still much more room for study on this topic. I wonder if any of this translates into childbirth experiences?
Njobvu, P., Hunt, I., Pope, D., & Macfarlane, G. (1999). Pain amongst ethnic minority groups of south asian origin in the united kingdom: A review. Rheumatology, 38(12), 1184-1187. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/38.12.1184