Exploring the Role of Negative Cognitions in the Relationship Between Ethnicity, Sleep, and Pain in Women With Temporomandibular Joint Disorder

Sheera F. Lerman, Claudia M. Campbell, Luis F. Buenaver, Mary Medak, Jane Phillips, Michelle Polley, Michael T. Smith, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Negative cognitions are central to the perpetuation of chronic pain and sleep disturbances. Patients with temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), a chronic pain condition characterized by pain and limitation in the jaw area, have a high comorbidity of sleep disturbances that possibly exacerbate their condition. Ethnic group differences are documented in pain, sleep, and coping, yet the mechanisms driving these differences are still unclear, especially in clinical pain populations. We recruited 156 women (79% white, 21% African American) diagnosed with TMJD as part of a randomized, controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of interventions targeting sleep and pain catastrophizing on pain in TMJD. Analysis of baseline data demonstrated that, relative to white participants, African Americans exhibited higher levels of clinical pain, insomnia severity, and pain catastrophizing, yet there was no ethnic group difference in negative sleep-related cognitions. Mediation models revealed pain catastrophizing, but not sleep-related cognitions or insomnia severity, to be a significant single mediator of the relationship between ethnicity and clinical pain. Only the helplessness component of catastrophizing together with insomnia severity sequentially mediated the ethnicity–pain relationship. These findings identify pain catastrophizing as a potentially important link between ethnicity and clinical pain and suggest that interventions targeting pain-related helplessness could improve both sleep and pain, especially for African American patients. Perspective: Pain-related helplessness and insomnia severity contribute to ethnic differences found in clinical pain among woman with TMJD. Findings can potentially inform interventions that target insomnia and catastrophizing to assist in reducing ethnic disparities in clinical pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1342-1351
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Catastrophizing
  • Ethnicity
  • Insomnia
  • Negative cognitions
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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