Pandemic negatively affecting management of chronic pain

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The COVID-19 pandemic is adversely affecting those struggling to manage chronic pain.

In the United States, approximately 50 million adults suffer from chronic pain. Of those, 20 million suffer from pain that affects their daily lives.

Pain is treated with nonpharmacological treatments, and then drug treatments, according to the American College of Physicians and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Those suffering from the worst pain, often are treated with opioids.

Patients using nonpharmacological treatments are the ones most adversely affected by the pandemic. Treatments include spinal manipulation, acupuncture, massage therapy, and yoga.

Non-pharmacological treatment providers may not be available, or the treatments do not comply with social distancing guidelines.

This may result in a greater reliance on drug treatments during the pandemic.

“Our research found that older Americans and African-Americans were least likely to use non-pharmacological treatments for chronic low back pain prior to the pandemic,” Regents Professor John C. Licciardone said. “Out-of-pocket costs for these treatments may be a possible explanation for this finding, as they are not universally covered by many health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.”

Licciardone is director of the Pain Registry for Epidemiological, Clinical, and Interventional Studies and Innovation at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

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