Grappling with chronic pain during the pandemic

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Co-authored with Dr Kristy Themelis of the WITHIN team at Warwick University.

The main priorities of the government and health services are currently aimed at preventing the spread of the virus and protecting our health from Covid-19. Meanwhile, chronic pain is one of the biggest health issues not just in the UK, but around the world.

The pandemic has an enormous impact on how NHS pain management and care programmes are operating and being delivered. For those with chronic pain, this brings on a whole new set of challenges to manage their health and wellbeing. If you have pain it may feel you have been forgotten at present, however two new initiatives have emerged and one specifically needs your help.

Firstly, in Yorkshire my colleagues and I – together with people from across the UK – have produced a new free resource for people with pain: My live well with pain. The resource emerged from joint work with the University of Durham GOTT project (Gabapentinoid and opioid tapering toolbox). The aim is to help patients and their clinicians use more self-management of chronic pain and reduce their reliance on opioids.

Long-term opioid use can cause numerous serious health issues and significantly reduces their effectiveness in managing pain. Identifying ways to reduce their use is important to improving overall health. The ten footsteps programme helps wider access to online interactive trusted resources that can guide people in to live a better-valued life.

Sadly, right now, a lot of research involving participants has been affected by Covid-19. Researchers are therefore developing ways to continue some of their research online.

The second initiative shows that those with persistent pain are not forgotten and their voices are still being heard and certainly wanted. Researchers working on the WITHIN study at the University of Warwick are currently recruiting volunteers with chronic pain aged 18–65 yrs, to take part in an online questionnaire study. If you can help, they would love to hear from you.

The Warwick Study of mental defeat in chronic pain is looking into how mental defeat may contribute to the persistence of chronic pain. By ‘mental defeat’ we mean disabling and negative thoughts about yourself in relation to your chronic pain.

“Some people with chronic pain report a sense of ‘defeat of the mind’, ‘the pain is taking over and you cannot cope with what you are supposed to do’, ‘the pain belittles you as a person,’’ and ‘it’s like you’re not a human being’. These thoughts summarize the patients’ experience of pain as an ‘enemy’ that encroaches upon their autonomy and personal integrity.”

Tang et al (2007) Mental defeat in chronic pain: Initial exploration of the concept. Clinical Journal of Pain

Participants will need to complete a short online screening questionnaire so they can take part in the study – which takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. The screening questionnaire can be found here. If suitable, participants are automatically directed to the main questionnaire, which takes approximately 30 to 45 minutes to complete and will be repeated three times across the course of one year.

Any queries or concerns can be addressed via email to 

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