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The New Zealand Medical Journal

 Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 21-January-2011, Vol 124 No 1328

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Understanding the role of culture in pain: Māori practitioner perspectives of pain descriptors
Jane E Magnusson, Joyce A Fennell


There is growing interest in the role of cultural diversity within healthcare settings yet minority ethnic groups are underrepresented in the healthcare literature, including the literature on pain. To better assess and treat pain in different cultures the perspectives and experiences of that culture must be taken into consideration and therefore the present study was undertaken to better understand Māori perspectives of pain.

Māori healthcare providers and kaumātua (tribal leaders/elders) completed questionnaires relating to the experience of pain and were asked to provide feedback regarding the suitability of words and phrases typically used to describe symptoms of pain and pain-related disability. Participants were also asked to provide words, or phrases (in te reo Māori or English) representing characteristics of pain which had not been provided but would be useful in the assessment of pain in a Māori population.

All of the pain descriptors, and 92% of the phrases regarding the experience of pain, provided were endorsed by the majority of participants demonstrating that, as in many cultures, Māori perceive pain as a multidimensional experience impacting them on physiological, psychological, and social dimensions and that the terms and phrases of measures commonly used to assess pain appropriately capture their pain experiences.

The implications of these findings are that established measures can be used when assessing pain in Māori. However, it is beneficial to confirm that the descriptors used in those measures accurately capture the experiences being measured.

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