Objective. The aim of the current study was to examine the relationships among age, ethnicity, and endogenous pain facilitation using temporal summation (TS) responses to mechanical and heat stimuli.
Design. The present study assessed hyperalgesia and pain facilitation to thermal and mechanical stimuli at the knee and distal sites in 98 pain-free men and women. Participants were drawn from two ethnic groups [African-American (AA) and non-Hispanic white (NHW)] and two age groups (19–35 and 45–85).
Results. Significant main effects of ethnicity were demonstrated for both mechanical and heat modalities (all P’s ≤ 0.05), suggesting that AA participants, relative to NHW counterparts, demonstrated enhanced hyperalgesia. Age differences (older > younger) in hyperalgesia were found in mechanical pain ratings only. Results indicated that mechanical pain ratings significantly increased from first to maximal pain as a function of both age group and ethnicity (all P’s ≤ 0.05), and a significant ethnicity by age interaction for TS of mechanical pain was found at the forearm (P < 0.05) and trended toward significance at the knee (P = 0.071). Post-hoc tests suggested that results were primarily driven by the older AA participants, who demonstrated the greatest mechanical TS. Additionally, evidence of differences in heat TS due to both ethnicity alone (all P’s ≤ 0.05) and minority aging was also found.
Conclusions. This study provides evidence suggesting that older AAs demonstrate enhanced pain facilitatory processes, which is important because this group may be at increased risk for development of chronic pain. These results underscore the necessity of testing pain modulatory mechanisms when addressing questions related to pain perception and minority aging.