February 17, 2023
Individuals with chronic low back pain who used positive coping strategies reported less interference of pain with their daily activities compared to those whose coping strategies were negative, based on a study of 84 individuals.
Pain coping was categorized as including:
- pain rumination – repetitive thinking about the pain and its causes
- reappraisal – evaluating one’s pain less negatively or more positively
- distraction – diverting attention from the pain
“We were slightly surprised that pain reappraisal was only significant in the day level but not in the average level, because the literature in the emotion field found very strong evidence of the effect it has in general,” Dr. Vertsberger said.
“The effects of pain on people’s lives could be influenced by the way they cope with their pain,” Dr. Vertsberger shard. “There are more ways to help patients with chronic low back pain other than medication. Patients who could change the way they think about their pain and situation could be less affected by their pain, compared to people who dwell on their pain,” she emphasized.
Looking ahead, “We still need to learn if we can influence the usage of these coping strategies,” Dr. Stearns added. “Similar literature has found that pain catastrophizing is associated with negative outcomes, but the research also shows that it is very challenging to decrease someone’s pattern of catastrophizing,” he said. Future research paths might include whether a pain patient could learn to change how much they use pain rumination vs. reappraisal, and what factors might predict a choice for a certain coping strategy, the better to target interventions, he said.
The study was supported in part by grants to several coauthors from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Dr. Stearns had no financial conflicts to disclose.