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Study Measures Chronic Pain in COPD Patients

Alison Rodriguez
Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often experience chronic pain symptoms, including low physical activity, depression, and hyperinflation, that impact their everyday lives.
COPD patients often experience chronic pain, including low physical activity, depression, and hyperinflation, that impact their everyday lives.

A new study, published by the Journal of the COPD Foundation, explores the chronic pain experienced by patients with moderate to very severe COPD compared with a healthy control group. All of the participants in the study took part in a series of procedures that evaluated the levels of pain they experienced. Those with COPD followed additional procedures to assess the severity of their condition as well as measure their daily activity.

In the study, 64 COPD patients were paired to 64 healthy control participants with similar demographics. Of those the COPD patients in the study, the prevalence of pain was 41%, while in the control participants it was 29%. COPD patients also experienced more chest and upper back pain, as well as more overall chronic pain, defined as daily pain for more than 3 months.

“In the COPD group, the most common descriptors of pain were aching (30%), tiring (17%) and penetrating (17%). No difference in age, pack years, BMI or spirometry was evident in those with pain compared to those without pain,” the study found. “Those with chest or upper back pain had a higher total lung capacity (mean difference 2.0L, 95% CI 0.6 to 3.0L) compared to those without pain.”

The study also acknowledged the limited associations that can be concluded from the research. For example, coughing is a common symptom of COPD that is often linked to back pain; however, cough measurements were not included in the study and therefore require more research. Cause of pain was also not considered, meaning the pain that was reported could be a result of a condition or disease other than COPD.

“Knowledge of the pain experience in patients with COPD is an important step to informing strategies to minimize its impact,” the study concluded.

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