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      Pain Intensity And Attribution Mediate The Impact Of Patient Weight And Gender On Activity Recommendations For Chronic Pain

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          Background and purpose

          Despite the notable benefits of physical activity for chronic pain, a large proportion of patients with chronic pain report that they do not receive activity-related recommendations from their providers. Research suggests that patient factors such as weight and gender influence activity-related recommendations for chronic pain. Research also suggests that appraisals of the intensity and cause of pain may explain these weight and gender effects. We investigated the influence of patient weight and gender on observers’ likelihood of recommending activity-related treatments for pain. We also explored the mediating effects of observers’ ratings of pain severity and the extent to which pain was due to medical and lifestyle factors (pain attribution).

          Patients and methods

          Healthy young adults (N=616; 76% female) viewed videos (Ghent Pain Videos of Daily Activities) and vignettes of 4 patients with chronic back pain performing a standardized functional task. Patients varied by gender (female, male) and weight (normal, obese), but were otherwise equivalent on demographic characteristics and pain behaviors. Participants rated how much pain they perceived the patients to be experiencing, the extent to which they attributed the pain to medical and lifestyle factors, and their likelihood of recommending exercise, physical therapy (PT), and rest.


          Patient weight and gender significantly interacted to influence exercise, PT, and rest recommendations. Both pain intensity and pain attribution mediated the relationships between patient weight and activity recommendations; however, these mediation effects differed across gender and recommendation type.


          Patient weight and gender influenced laypeople’s activity recommendations for chronic pain. Moreover, the results suggest that observers’ perceptions of pain intensity and pain attributions are mechanisms underlying these effects. If these findings are replicated in providers, interventions may need to be developed to reduce provider biases and increase their recognition of the benefits of physical activity for chronic pain.

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          Most cited references 45

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          Systematic review: strategies for using exercise therapy to improve outcomes in chronic low back pain.

          Exercise therapy encompasses a heterogeneous group of interventions. There continues to be uncertainty about the most effective exercise approach in chronic low back pain. To identify particular exercise intervention characteristics that decrease pain and improve function in adults with nonspecific chronic low back pain. MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychInfo, CINAHL, and Cochrane Library databases to October 2004 and citation searches and bibliographic reviews of previous systematic reviews. Randomized, controlled trials evaluating exercise therapy in populations with chronic (>12 weeks duration) low back pain. Two reviewers independently extracted data on exercise intervention characteristics: program design (individually designed or standard program), delivery type (independent home exercises, group, or individual supervision), dose or intensity (hours of intervention time), and inclusion of additional conservative interventions. 43 trials of 72 exercise treatment and 31 comparison groups were included. Bayesian multivariable random-effects meta-regression found improved pain scores for individually designed programs (5.4 points [95% credible interval (CrI), 1.3 to 9.5 points]), supervised home exercise (6.1 points [CrI, -0.2 to 12.4 points]), group (4.8 points [CrI, 0.2 to 9.4 points]), and individually supervised programs (5.9 points [CrI, 2.1 to 9.8 points]) compared with home exercises only. High-dose exercise programs fared better than low-dose exercise programs (1.8 points [CrI, -2.1 to 5.5 points]). Interventions that included additional conservative care were better (5.1 points [CrI, 1.8 to 8.4 points]). A model including these most effective intervention characteristics would be expected to demonstrate important improvement in pain (18.1 points [CrI, 11.1 to 25.0 points] compared with no treatment and 13.0 points [CrI, 6.0 to 19.9 points] compared with other conservative treatment) and small improvement in function (5.5 points [CrI, 0.5 to 10.5 points] compared with no treatment and 2.7 points [CrI, -1.7 to 7.1 points] compared with other conservative treatment). Stretching and strengthening demonstrated the largest improvement over comparisons. Limitations of the literature, including low-quality studies with heterogeneous outcome measures and inconsistent and poor reporting; publication bias. Exercise therapy that consists of individually designed programs, including stretching or strengthening, and is delivered with supervision may improve pain and function in chronic nonspecific low back pain. Strategies should be used to encourage adherence. Future studies should test this multivariable model and further assess specific patient-level characteristics and exercise types.
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            The association between obesity and low back pain: a meta-analysis.

            This meta-analysis assessed the association between overweight/obesity and low back pain. The authors systematically searched the Medline (National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, Maryland) and Embase (Elsevier, Amsterdam, the Netherlands) databases until May 2009. Ninety-five studies were reviewed and 33 included in the meta-analyses. In cross-sectional studies, obesity was associated with increased prevalence of low back pain in the past 12 months (pooled odds ratio (OR) = 1.33, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.14, 1.54), seeking care for low back pain (OR = 1.56, 95% CI: 1.46, 1.67), and chronic low back pain (OR = 1.43, 95% CI: 1.28, 1.60). Compared with non-overweight people, overweight people had a higher prevalence of low back pain but a lower prevalence of low back pain compared with obese people. In cohort studies, only obesity was associated with increased incidence of low back pain for > or =1 day in the past 12 months (OR = 1.53, 95% CI: 1.22, 1.92). Results remained consistent after adjusting for publication bias and limiting the analyses to studies that controlled for potential confounders. Findings indicate that overweight and obesity increase the risk of low back pain. Overweight and obesity have the strongest association with seeking care for low back pain and chronic low back pain.
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              The association between chronic pain and obesity

              Obesity and pain present serious public health concerns in our society. Evidence strongly suggests that comorbid obesity is common in chronic pain conditions, and pain complaints are common in obese individuals. In this paper, we review the association between obesity and pain in the general population as well as chronic pain patients. We also review the relationship between obesity and pain response to noxious stimulation in animals and humans. Based upon the existing research, we present several potential mechanisms that may link the two phenomena, including mechanical/structural factors, chemical mediators, depression, sleep, and lifestyle. We discuss the clinical implications of obesity and pain, focusing on the effect of weight loss, both surgical and noninvasive, on pain. The literature suggests that the two conditions are significant comorbidities, adversely impacting each other. The nature of the relationship however is not likely to be direct, but many interacting factors appear to contribute. Weight loss for obese pain patients appears to be an important aspect of overall pain rehabilitation, although more efforts are needed to determine strategies to maintain long-term benefit.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                19 September 2019
                : 12
                : 2743-2753
                [1 ]Department of Psychology, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis , Indianapolis, IN, USA
                [2 ]Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham , Birmingham, AL, USA
                [3 ]Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University , Ghent, Belgium
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Adam T Hirsh Department of Psychology, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis , LD 124, 402 N. Blackford St., Indianapolis, IN46202, USATel +1 317 2746942Fax +1 317 2746756 Email athirsh@iupui.edu
                © 2019 Mehok et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Figures: 4, References: 64, Pages: 11
                Original Research

                Anesthesiology & Pain management

                recommendations, pain, physical activity, gender, weight


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