Psych Distress Magnifies Patient Perception of Shoulder Pain

Most studies investigating the psychosocial determinants of orthopaedic pain andF6.medium disability have focused on the spine, hand, hip, and knee. But in the December 16, 2015 JBJS, Menendez et al. looked at psychosocial associations among 139 patients presenting with shoulder complaints. Similar to findings regarding those other anatomical areas, Menendez et al. found that patient variability in perceived symptom intensity and magnitude was more strongly related to psychological distress than to a specific shoulder diagnosis, which included rotator cuff tear, impingement, osteoarthritis, and frozen shoulder.

The authors measured patient pain and disability scores upon presentation using the Shoulder Pain and Disability Index (SPADI). They then analyzed the SPADI scores in relation to sociodemographic data and patient responses to three additional validated tests measuring depression, tendencies to catastrophize, and self-efficacy. They found that disabled and retired work status, higher BMI, catastrophic thinking, and lower self-efficacy (i.e., ineffective coping strategies) were associated with greater patient-reported symptom intensity and magnitude of disability.

Interestingly, BMI was the only biological influence on pain and disability scores. Also, retirement had a negative influence on pain and disability scores, which was somewhat surprising considering that retirement often has positive effects on well-being.

The authors conclude that future research focused on the effect of psychosocial factors on postoperative pain and response to treatment might “allow surgeons to identify patients who are at risk for a treatment-refractory course.” They further surmise that “interventions to decrease catastrophic thinking and to optimize self-efficacy…before shoulder surgery hold potential to ameliorate symptom intensity and the magnitude of disability.”

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