Confronting Racism in All Forms of Pain Research: Reframing Study Designs

Janelle E. Letzen, Vani A. Mathur, Mary R. Janevic, Michael D. Burton, Anna M. Hood, Calia A. Morais, Staja Q. Booker, Claudia M. Campbell, Edwin N. Aroke, Burel R. Goodin, Lisa C. Campbell, Ericka N. Merriwether

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This second paper in a 3-part series on antiracism in pain research across the translational spectrum focuses on study design factors. Although objectivity is a cornerstone value of science, subjectivity is embedded in every step of the research process as investigators make choices about who they collaborate with, which research questions they ask, how they recruit participants, which research tools they use, and how they analyze and interpret data. We present theory and evidence from disciplines such as sociology, medical anthropology, statistics, and public health to discuss 4 common study design factors, including 1) the dominant biomedical narrative of pain that restricts funding and exploration of social indicators of pain, 2) low diversity and inclusion in pain research enrollment that restricts generalizability to racialized groups, 3) the use of “race” or “ethnicity” as a statistical variable and proxy for lived experiences (eg, racism, resilience), and 4) limited modeling in preclinical research for the impact of social factors on pain physiology. The information presented in this article is intended to start conversations across stakeholders in the pain field to explore how we can come together to adopt antiracism practices in our work at large to achieve equity for racialized groups. Perspective: This is the second paper in a 3-part series on antiracism in pain research. This part identifies common study design factors that risk hindering progress toward pain care equity. We suggest reframes using an antiracism framework for these factors to encourage all pain investigators to collectively make strides toward equity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)893-912
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Racism
  • antiracism
  • methods
  • pain care equity
  • pain disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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