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COPD patients suffer chronic pain similar to those with arthritis

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Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience significant chronic pain of similar severity to the pain of arthritis, a new study has found.

Previous studies have shown the use of pain relief medication among COPD patients, said lead author Melissa Roberts, senior research associate at the Lovelace Clinic Foundation in Albuquerque and a doctoral candidate at the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy.

But she explained that in this latest study, the team wanted to discover whether this was due to the older age of COPD patients and the common co-existence of other conditions, or whether COPD causes a level of pain above those factors.

“In this study, we chose to compare chronic pain in individuals with COPD and individuals with chronic conditions that similarly affect multiple body systems,” she added.

The results from the study will be presented at the ATS 2013 International Conference.

For the research, the team used data gathered from 7,952 COPD patients and 15,904 non-COPD patients over the age of 40 who were enrolled in a managed care system in the southwestern United States from 2006 until 2010.

Among those with COPD there was a greater number who had some indication of chronic pain and use of pain-related medications compared with the group of patients with non-COPD chronic disease.

However, the researchers discovered that the chronic pain felt by the COPD patients did not appear directly linked to airflow obstruction, as their chronic pain was not associated with lung function impairment.

The only sub-group of patients with greater prevalence of chronic pain and use of pain medication were those with either rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.

“Individuals with COPD were similar to those with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis in their experience of pain, but with even greater use of opioids,” Ms Roberts said.

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