Home Mind & Brain Study Reveals Chronic Pain Affects 60% of TBI Patients, Highlighting the Need for Improved Pain Management

Study Reveals Chronic Pain Affects 60% of TBI Patients, Highlighting the Need for Improved Pain Management

Published: Last updated:
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A recent study examined chronic pain in people with traumatic brain injury (TBI), providing new perspectives that may change how treatment is approached. The researchers thoroughly compared multiple aspects of pain and treatment effectiveness between various patient populations with TBI.

Chronic pain, a frequent comorbidity with TBI, significantly affects the quality of life of sufferers. This study, involving a large cohort of TBI patients, sought to estimate the prevalence of chronic pain and identify characteristics that differ from those without chronic pain. Notably, 46% of participants reported current chronic pain, and 14% had experienced chronic pain post-injury.

The findings were published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation.

The study’s comprehensive analysis revealed varying pain experiences among TBI survivors. It compared individuals with current pain, past pain, and no pain, identifying significant differences in pain characteristics and treatment histories. For instance, the study found that those with current chronic pain experienced worse functional outcomes than those in the other groups.

An intriguing aspect of this research is its focus on treatment efficacy. The study discovered that treatment utilisation rates were higher for individuals with current chronic pain compared to those with past pain. Intriguingly, individuals with past pain perceived more improvement with treatment than those with current chronic pain, suggesting the need for more effective pain management strategies.

Mackenzie Peckham, a research assistant at Craig Hospital, commented on the high prevalence of chronic pain in the TBI population. “Our research has shown a high prevalence of long-term chronic pain among people who have experienced traumatic brain injury. In surveying more than 3,800 people from that population, the research group found that about 60% reported current or previous chronic pain. Participants ranged from 1 to 30 years post injury and around 46% endorsed experiencing current chronic pain, which suggests they are probably not getting the right kind of treatment,” Peckham observed.

“Pain after TBI is complex. The sources of pain associated with TBI vary. Pain can stem from the brain injury itself or from soft tissue or bones. Neuropathic pain and cognitive difficulties are seen as significant barriers to the effective treatment of chronic pain. People have lots of different locations of pain, with the most people reporting four locations. While headaches are a really prominent problem, back pain is the most frequently reported type of pain. We found that a lot of people have multiple pain problems and they’ve tried a lot of things to treat their pain,” Peckham added.

Addressing chronic pain more effectively for individuals with TBI has the potential to improve their health and quality of life. “People with traumatic brain injuries who also have chronic pain tend to report more disability, worse psychological health, and greater difficulty reintegrating into their communities. Addressing chronic pain in this patient population is especially important, given the heightened focus on opioid addiction globally and high risk for those with TBI,” Peckham explained.

Further insights from healthcare providers have revealed challenges in accessing chronic pain treatment for those with TBI. “Input from healthcare providers has provided information on barriers and facilitators to accessing chronic pain treatment for those with TBI, and future work needs to gather additional information from patients to assist with planning for implementation efforts to ensure increased access. Especially given the need to address cognitive impairment, which can limit one’s ability to follow through with treatment recommendations, including remembering to attend a follow-up appointment, take medication at the right time, or engage in strategies that help improve one’s ability to engage in everyday activities,” noted Peckham.

Additionally, Peckham highlighted the need for tailored treatment approaches and prevention strategies. “Understanding what type of treatment may be effective for which person (and whether that differs by the type of pain one experiences) will require more close follow-up with individuals with TBI and chronic pain. We also hope to begin to understand if there are ways that we can prevent chronic pain from occurring by learning more about early treatment for acute pain for those with TBI,” Peckham concluded.

The findings underscore the importance of including pain metrics in prognostic models for TBI patients. The study advocates for future research to proactively identify individuals at risk of developing chronic pain and to assess the efficacy and accessibility of pain treatments. This is crucial for enhancing the physical and emotional well-being of TBI survivors.

© Copyright 2014–2034 Psychreg Ltd