The relationship between pain and ethnicity is shaped by experience, learning and culture. • Mistaken beliefs about the nature of pain and disability, resistance to treatment seeking, reluctance to comply with treatment and failure to accept responsibility of the treatment outcome are not culturally or sub-culturally specific obstacles to pain management. • A cultural group's expectations and acceptance of pain as a normal part of life will determine whether pain is seen as a clinical problem that requires a clinical solution. • The reviewed literature shows disparities in pain treatment based on ethnic background. • Multidisciplinary research needs to investigate the models of pain and treatment in different cultural groups to allow us to understand how pain is presented and how beliefs and expectations about treatment can be married with practical solutions and effective evidence-based pain management.