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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 Dec 2023 - 22 Dec 2023

2023 Nov 09



Chronic overlapping pain conditions increase the risk of long COVID features, regardless of acute COVID status.


Bergmans RS, Clauw DJ, Flint C, Harris H, Lederman S, Schrepf A


Chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPCs) refer to conditions that have similar central nervous system pathophysiologic mechanisms driving widespread pain as well as common comorbid symptoms such as fatigue and problems with sleep, memory, and mood. If COPCs predict the onset of long COVID, this could offer a valuable orientation for long COVID-related research and clinical care. This retrospective cohort study aimed to determine whether having a COPC predicts the onset of long COVID features using US electronic health records and 1:1 propensity score matching without replacement. The study cohorts included (1) people with acute COVID (n = 1,038,402), (2) people with acute influenza (n = 262,092), and (3) a noninfected cohort comprising people with a routine healthcare encounter (n = 1,081,593). Having a COPC increased the risk of long COVID features in all 3 study cohorts. Among those with COVID, having a pre-existing COPC increased the risk by 1.47 (95% CI = 1.46, 1.47). In the influenza cohort, COPCs increased the risk by 1.39 (95% CI = 1.38, 1.40). In the noninfected cohort, COPCs increased the risk by 1.57 (95% CI = 1.56, 1.59). These findings reinforce the likelihood that nociplastic mechanisms play a prominent role in long COVID. Recognizing that this ubiquitous nonspecific syndrome occurs frequently in the population can inform precision medicine therapies that avoid the pitfalls of viewing long COVID exclusively in the framework of postinfectious disease.