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Papers of the Week

2022 Apr 07


Chronic pain experience through COVID-19: a comparison of reports prior and during the early stages of the pandemic.


The impacts of COVID-19 and imposed restrictions on individuals with chronic noncancer pain continue to emerge, varying across countries. More recent research (including with longitudinal designs) suggests that the pandemic may not have such a disproportionate effect on chronic noncancer pain and its management as first thought. This longitudinal study, with assessments before the pandemic (2019) and early during the pandemic (May-July 2020), examined changes in validated measures of pain severity, pain interference, prescription opioid misuse, and mental health symptoms. Patients (N = 236) self-reported significant improvements in pain severity, pain interference, pain self-efficacy, pain catastrophizing, prescription opioid misuse, depression, and anxiety symptoms over time. Approximately 30% and 33% of patients achieved minimally important reductions (10% change) in pain severity and pain interference, respectively. In follow-up exploratory analyses, prepandemic sociodemographic and psychological factors predictive of 10% improved (vs 10% worse) pain severity and interference were investigated in logistic regressions. Reduction in pain interference was predicted by current employment, older age, and higher pain self-efficacy. There were no significant predictors of reduction in pain severity. The impact of COVID-19 on patients' pain experience and mental health was negligible in the early stages of the pandemic, and findings suggest improvements through the period. Targeted interventions that promote the protective factor of pain self-efficacy and build resilience may buffer patients' future response to the pandemic because it evolves as a part of our new normal. Targeted social determinants of health interventions that direct resources toward maintaining employment could also be important.