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Papers of the Week

Papers: 6 Jan 2024 - 12 Jan 2024

2024 Jan 02



Description and initial validation of a novel measure of pain intensity: the Numeric Rating Scale of Underlying Pain without concurrent Analgesic use.


Suri P, Heagerty PJ, Timmons A, Jensen MP


Although many individuals with chronic pain use analgesics, the methods used in many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) do not sufficiently account for confounding by differential post-randomization analgesic use. This may lead to underestimation of average treatment effects and diminished power. We introduce (1) a new measure-the Numeric Rating Scale of Underlying Pain without concurrent Analgesic use (NRS-UP(A))-which can shift the estimand of interest in an RCT to target effects of a treatment on pain intensity in the hypothetical situation where analgesic use was not occurring at the time of outcome assessment; and (2) a new pain construct-an individuals’ perceived effect of analgesic use on pain intensity (EA). The NRS-UP(A) may be used as a secondary outcome in RCTs of point treatments or nonpharmacologic treatments. Among 662 adults with back pain in primary care, participants’ mean value of the NRS-UP(A) among those using analgesics was 1.2 NRS points higher than their value on the conventional pain intensity NRS, reflecting a mean EA value of -1.2 NRS points and a perceived beneficial effect of analgesics. More negative values of EA (ie, greater perceived benefit) were associated with a greater number of analgesics used but not with pain intensity, analgesic type, or opioid dose. The NRS-UP(A) and EA were significantly associated with future analgesic use 6 months later, but the conventional pain NRS was not. Future research is needed to determine whether the NRS-UP(A), used as a secondary outcome may allow pain RCTs to target alternative estimands with clinical relevance.