Measuring Pain's Ability to Interfere with Function

In this study, researchers used a self-report survey tool called the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) to compare two groups of pain patients. The first group included cancer patients (men and women). Some had primary cancer (e.g., breast, lung, prostate, bladder, GI). Others had metastatic cancer (spread from the primary area to other parts of the body).

The second group included men and women with noncancer chronic pain (NCCP). Areas affected included back, neck, and local musculoskeletal areas. Everyone in both groups filled out the BPI. Pain was rated in intensity and as interference with function. Function was broken down into seven sections. General activity, mood, walking ability, normal work, relations with other people, sleep, and quality of life were included in the sections.

The goal of the study was to see if and how pain interferes with function for these two groups of patients. The BPI was used because it measures pain intensity and pain's interference with functions.

The authors report that cancer patients had higher levels of pain interference with physical functions. The NCCP patients had more interference with psychologic functions. NCCP patients have had to cope with pain for much longer than cancer patients. They may have learned how to adapt better.

Cancer patients report interference with function from the effects of the disease, not just from pain. This may be because cancer patients often have many more symptoms than just pain. Chronic pain patients usually only have the pain to deal with.

This study helped point out that the type of diagnosis can affect the level of health-related quality of life. Pain intensity associated with cancer had a much greater effect on pain interference with function. Pain intensity is not as valuable of an assessment measure for NCCP patients.

Jacob C. Hølen, Cand.Polit. (Psychology), et al. The Brief Pain Inventory: Pain's Interference with Functions is Different in Cancer Pain Compared with Noncancer Chronic Pain. In The Clinical Journal of Pain. March/April 2008. Vol. 24. No. 3. Pp. 219-225.

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