Because of Covid-19, many treatments had to be considered second priority and a large part of the people abided by quarantines and mobility restrictions. This situation was particular to people with chronic pain and illness, not only because of a lack of care, but also because of a possible increase in pain. A recent study points out, social interactions play an important role in pain perception, which is why during the Covid-19 pandemic, chronic pain may have increased.
The study was conducted by various institutions and published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine of the Society for Behavioral Medicine. Researchers continue the line of study that suggests that social interaction plays an important factor in pain perception and the effectiveness of a treatment.
To confirm the relationship, patients were enrolled from the Stanford University Collaborative Health Outcomes Information Registry. Through this health insurance, routine clinical care included physical and psychological therapy with specialists for each chronic pain. Through registration, computerized adaptive tests and PROMIS measures, it was possible to assess the pain perception of patients in their routine clinical care for some time.
The results showed that there is a causal relationship between social isolation and how patients perceived pain. Those who perceived a greater sense of inclusion and commitment from others had a lesser impact of pain. Similarly, patients with greater feelings of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection seemed to view their pain as a troublesome experience.
“Chronic pain can be incredibly burdensome,” says Linda Porter, director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “It seems to have become a bigger problem during the pandemic than before; isolation worsens their pain, people couldn’t get to where they needed to go for care. Also, the cycle of pain often includes depression and anxiety, and all of this together has really affected people’s lives. ”
This confirmation of isolation in the study also sought to raise awareness of including the social context and the available support of patients in clinical treatments. If social factors affect pain and the effectiveness of treatments, during the Covid-19 pandemic it may have significantly affected people in quarantine.