- 2021;24;165-173Patients with Chronic Pain Prefer Maintenance of Pain Treatment Despite COVID-19 Pandemic Restrictions
Barbara Kleinmann, MD, Birgit Abberger, PhD, Kristin Kieselbach, MD, and Tilman Wolter, MD.
BACKGROUND: Worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has a significant impact on daily life. First studies describe a negative impact of pandemic stressors even on individuals without previous mental illnesses. The home lockdown and the shutdown of pain clinics make it difficult for all patients to get the healthcare they need.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to investigate to what extent patients with chronic pain felt affected by the pandemic and its consequences on pain treatments, focussing on the beginning of the outbreak.
STUDY DESIGN: A prospective noninterventional study.
SETTING: Medical University Center .
METHODS: One-hundred and forty-nine patients, suffering from chronic pain, treated at a large German interdisciplinary pain center, were studied over a period of 2 months at the beginning of the pandemic. Data from patient charts and questionnaires were evaluated. Patients were asked about postponements or cancellations of pain therapy, the possible effect on pain levels, depression, anxiety and stress, and the impact of intensified hygiene measures. Results were compared to those from standardized and validated questionnaires from the same patients (German version of the depression, anxiety, and stress scale = DASS) at the time of the first contact in the pain clinic.
RESULTS: Eighty-four (56.4%) patients reported cancelled or postponed treatments during the pandemic. Those chronic pain patients with delayed or cancelled treatments reported significantly more pain and psychological distress. The delay or discontinuation of treatments resulted in a deterioration of symptoms. From the patients’ point of view this deterioration was unrelated to the timing of treatment and not secondary to increased hygiene measures. In both groups, patients showed a significant amelioration of the DASS values compared to the values they had at the beginning of treatment, despite the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on care structures. The majority of the patients do not think that the quality of pain treatment was significantly affected by the intensified hygiene requirements.
LIMITATIONS: The limitations of the study are the small number of patients because of the limitation to a short period of time at the beginning of the pandemic and the return rate of 40.2% of the study consents.
CONCLUSIONS: Even in the event of a pandemic-related restriction of the care structures, patients with chronic pain benefit from pain therapy. Limitations such as the increased hygiene measures caused by the pandemic were not considered detrimental to the therapeutic measures.
KEY WORDS: COVID-19 pandemic, hygiene measures, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, stress