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Objective. We examined whether occupational and household tasks contributed to differences in pain between African Americans and whites with radiographic knee osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods. Participants from the Johnston County Osteoarthritis Project self-reported the frequency (often/always vs never/seldom/sometimes) of performing 9 occupational tasks involving lower extremity joint loading at their longest job (N = 868) and current job (N = 273), as well as 8 household tasks ever performed (N = 811) and currently being performed (N = 767). The associations of the numbers of occupational or household tasks with the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) pain subscale were first examined in simple linear regression models. If significantly associated with greater pain, each of these was included in adjusted linear regression models to examine whether the association of race with pain remained statistically significant.
Results. African Americans reported significantly greater WOMAC pain scores than whites. Exposures to more occupational tasks at the longest job and the current job were associated with greater WOMAC pain scores (p < 0.01). The association of race with greater pain scores remained statistically significant when controlling for occupational tasks at the longest job, but was reduced by 26% and no longer significant when controlling for the number of current occupational tasks. Exposures to an increasing number of household tasks were associated with lower pain scores and were not further analyzed.
Conclusion. Current performance of physically demanding occupational tasks contributed to racial differences in pain severity among individuals with knee OA. Better workplace policies to accommodate OA-related limitations may help to reduce racial differences in pain.
Supported by cooperative agreements S043, S1734, and S3486, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Association of Schools of Public Health; National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) Multipurpose Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Disease Center grant 5-P60-AR30701; and NIAMS Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center grant 5 P60 AR49465-03 and NIAMS Arthritis and Immunology Training Grant T-32-AR007416.
The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Accepted for publication October 3, 2011.