Review of chronic non-cancer pain research among Aboriginal people in Canada

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Abstract

Purpose:

Aboriginal people in Canada are disproportionately affected by chronic illnesses, compared to non-Aboriginal Canadians. The purpose of this review was to determine whether differences exist between the two groups with respect to chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) in order to better inform clinical practice and to identify research gaps.

Data sources:

Four electronic databases were searched for the period of 1990-2015.

Study selection:

Only English and French language original studies that examined CNCP prevalence, assessment tools and beliefs among Aboriginal people in Canada were considered.

Data extraction:

Data extracted included Aboriginal group, geographic location, study setting and pain definition (for prevalence studies only).

Results of data synthesis:

A total of 11 studies matched the selection criteria: 10 reported estimates of chronic pain prevalence among Aboriginal people in Canada, 1 was about a culturally adapted pain assessment tool, and no study was found about CNCP beliefs within Aboriginal people.

Conclusion:

CNCP among Aboriginal people is still a largely unexplored research field. The limited evidence available so far does not allow us to conclude that CNCP affects a higher proportion of Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal people in Canada. However, arthritis, a specific condition associated with chronic pain, is more prevalent in Aboriginal than non-Aboriginal people. Additional research is needed on other CNCP types and conditions. Furthermore, pain assessment tools are not culturally adapted and clinicians should inquire more about the beliefs of Aboriginal patients to make them feel safer and to better target interventions.

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