Home E-Weekly March 24, 2015

Study: If Patients Fear Pain, They'll Feel Pain

Published: March 23, 2015

Attitude and genetics may influence the perceived intensity of post-surgical pain as much as, or more than, the size or intensity of the operation, a recent study finds.

Researchers at the University of Florida Health tested 150 patients having shoulder surgery, first exploring their attitudes about pain, and then checking for the presence of genes that have been linked to sensitivity and inflammation. They then asked patients to rate their pain on a 0-to-10 scale 1 week before surgery; then 3, 6 and 12 months after surgery. Patients who were especially fearful of pain and who had a high pain sensitivity variant of the COMT gene were more than 40% likely to say they were still in pain 12 months after surgery, compared with 20% of patients who didn't have those factors.

The pain sensitivity questionnaire measured fear of various kinds of pain, such as paper cuts and slamming a hand in a car door, as well as pain catastrophizing — the fear that pain will worsen or that nothing can be done to prevent it.

The goal of the research is to help tailor appropriate pain treatments, says lead investigator Steven George, PT, PhD, adding that there's no reason to believe that the findings wouldn't apply to other parts of the body, too.

Jim Burger

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