How Effective Are Pain Specialists in Improving Quality of Life?

Chronic pain affects around 100 million Americans and treatments can range from prescription drugs to genetic engineering. While pain is typically the primary complaint among patients, their quality of life is often times negatively impacted as well. Beyond treating a patient's pain symptoms, is there anything else a physician can do to make a positive impact on a patient's quality of life?

Chronic pain affects around 100 million Americans and treatments can range from prescription drugs to genetic engineering. While pain is typically the primary complaint among patients, their quality of life is often times negatively impacted as well. Beyond treating a patient’s pain symptoms, is there anything else a physician can do to make a positive impact on a patient’s quality of life?

Researchers based in Spain collected information from large-scale observational studies in order to determine if quality of life improved in patients with chronic pain with the intervention of physicians. Their findings published in PAIN Practice reveal a notable, positive difference in pain levels and quality of life.

A total of 3,029 patients with noncancer chronic pain were included in the analysis. For three months, the participants underwent usual care. Health outcomes were determined using the EQ-5D Index which measures the following five items: mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort, and anxiety/depression. Each of those points is marked as either: no problems, some problems, or extreme problems. The Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) was also used to evaluate pain levels.

By the end of the study period, 40.9% of patients exhibited improvement in the separate EQ-5D items from baseline. The biggest improvement for pain/discomfort was 50.8% and anxiety/depression was 48.3%.

“The EQ-5D Index increased from a mean (SD) of 0.35 (0.2) to 0.58 (0.21) points between baseline and month three, and the thermometer from 41.5 (19.4) to 58.7 (17.8), indicated a large effect,” the report said. In addition, the average severity score on the BPI scale improved from 6.5 to 4.1 as well as the interference score from 6.6 to 4.2.

The authors noted that the biggest improvements in quality of life was observed in those with severe pain at baseline. Also, BPI score changes correlated with changes on the EQ-5D Index.

“In conclusion, three months of usual care in noncancer pain patients led to substantial improvements in [quality of life] and pain outcomes,” the team confirmed.