Psychosocial Factors Influence Pain in Multiple Sclerosis

JULY 17, 2015
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
Pain is prevalent in 63% of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a recent study, and psychosocial factors may be key contributors to the severity of that pain.

A study using a cognitive-behavioral MS model suggested that psychosocial factors may increase pain in patients. However, is there actually a correlation? A team from the King’s College Hospital in the UK explored the possibility.

“MS-associated pain is typically classified as either neuropathic or non-neuropathic in origin,” the authors wrote in the European Journal of Neurology. “Between 5% and 32% of [MS] regard pain as their most severe symptom.”

A total of 612 patients with MS filed out a survey assessing pain and ways of thinking. The severity of the disease and pain interference was determined using hierarchical regressions. Results were similar between neuropathic and non-neuropathic pain groups.

“All psychosocial factors including distress, negative beliefs about pain and its consequences, and avoidance of activity, were related to pain outcomes,” the team confirmed.

A news release explained that 85% of the patients ranked as moderate to severe on the Brief Pain Inventory Short Form – even though 93% were taking pain medications. After taking demographic and other variables into consideration, it was found that the psychosocial factors contributed to 24% of the variance in pain severity and 30% of interference.These indications remained even after disregarding conditions like depression and anxiety.

Furthermore, demographic variables made up 19% of pain contribution and 26% was credited to disease factors.

“The team points out that patients with more severe and interfering pain had more pain catastrophizing,” the statement continued, “were likely to view pain as being persistent over time with serious consequences and tended to avoid social and physical activities.”

It was concluded that psychosocial factors are important predictors for pain levels and can help with determining effective treatment.

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