No differences in pain scores and treatment response in patients from different socioeconomic areas within the city of Chicago


Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Advocate Illinois Masonic Pain Management Center


Background: It is well established that the experience of chronic pain significantly differs among ethnic-racial groups. There is mixed evidence to suggest that societal influences may contribute to pain prevalence among cultural groups and their treatment response. One possible explanation for differences in pain experience are the differences in socioeconomic status among patients with chronic pain.

Objective: To determine whether there is any difference in pain scores or treatment responses among patients with different socioeconomic status.

Study design: Retrospective analysis.

Setting: Outpatient pain clinic.

Methods: After approval from the Advocate Healthcare Institutional Review Board, we included 1,149 patients treated for different chronic pain conditions who were followed for at least 12 months. Patients were stratified into quartiles determined by median income according to ZIP code.

Results: Of the sampled patients, 207 patients lived in ZIP codes with median incomes > $51,294; 515 in ZIP codes with median incomes between $40,083 and $51,294; 332 in ZIP codes with median incomes between $30,625 and $40,083; and 95 in ZIP codes with median incomes < $30,625. Groups differed in age (P = 0.047), race (P < 0.001), body mass index (BMI) (P = 0.019), utilization of opioid medications (P = 0.011), morphine milligram equivalents (MME) on first visit (P = 0.036), and utilization of membrane stabilizers such as gabapentin (P = 0.019). There were no significant differences among groups in terms of gender (P = 0.531), type of pain experienced (P = 0.679), or time since pain onset (P = 0.174). Groups were treated similarly, with no statistically significant differences in the proportions of patients who had taken various nonopioid medications throughout their treatment course other than membrane stabilizers, the number of patients who received interventional pain management procedures, or MME at last visit. Average pretreatment numeric rating scale pain scores were not significantly different among quartiles (P = 0.079), posttreatment pain scores (P = 0.767), and subjective percent improvement (P = 0.434).

Limitations: This is a single center study and may have limitations in extrapolating to the general population.

Conclusion: The results of our study show that there are no differences in pain perception or treatment responses in patients from different socioeconomic statuses despite differences among groups in age, BMI, race, utilization of opioid medications, and MME at first visit. Patients at this pain practice appear to have been treated with similar modalities regardless of socioeconomic status.

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