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Med J Malaysia. 2009 Jun;64(2):111-3.

Are Indians and females less tolerant to pain? An observational study using a laboratory pain model.

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International Medical University, Clinical School, 70300 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.


In Malaysia, it is a common belief among health care workers that females and Indians have lower pain threshold. This experience, although based on anecdotal experience in the healthcare setting, does not allow differentiation between pain tolerance, and pain expression. To determine whether there is a difference in the tolerance to pain between the three main ethnic groups, namely the Malays, Chinese and Indians as well as between males and females. This was a prospective study, using a laboratory pain model (ischaemic pain tolerance) to determine the pain tolerance of 152 IMU medical students. The mean age of the students was 21.8 years (range 18-29 years). All of them were unmarried. The median of ischaemic pain tolerance for Malays, Chinese and Indians were 639s, 695s and 613s respectively (p = 0.779). However, statistically significant difference in ischaemic pain tolerance for males and females Indian students were observed. Possible ethnic difference in pain tolerance in casual observation is not verified by this laboratory pain model. Difference in pain tolerance between genders is shown only for Indians.

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