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Papers of the Week

Papers: 17 Feb 2024 - 23 Feb 2024

2024 Feb 20



Do current methods of measuring the impact of chronic pain on work reflect the experience of working-age adults? An integrated mixed-methods systematic narrative review.


Stagg AL, Madan I, Fear N, Stevens MJ, Wainwright E, Hoving JL, Macfarlane GJ, Hollick R, Morton L


Chronic pain affects individuals’ work participation. The impact of chronic pain on work has historically been measured through sickness absence, though it is now appreciated that the impacts on work are far wider. This mixed-methods review aimed to identify the full range of impacts of pain on work in addition to impacts that are currently measured quantitatively to inform the development of a new questionnaire assessing the wider impacts of chronic pain on work. MEDLINE, Embase, PsychINFO, and CINAHL were searched for studies that included quantitative measures of the impact of chronic pain on work and for qualitative studies where individuals described impacts of their chronic pain on work. Quantitative measures, and text from qualitative studies, were analysed thematically. A thematic framework was developed for establishing the types of impacts measured or described in the literature. Forty-four quantitative and 16 qualitative papers were identified. The literature described impacts within 5 areas: changes at work and to working status; aspects of the workplace and work relationships; pain and related symptoms at work; psychological factors; and factors and impacts outside the work environment related to work. Quantitative measures mainly assessed impacts related to the quantity and quality of work (29 of 42 measures). Seventeen aspects were only discussed within the qualitative literature. This study identifies a discrepancy between the impacts that have been the focus of quantitative measures and the range that individuals working with chronic pain experience and highlights the need for a new measure assessing a wider range of issues.