Study shows the effects of self-management on chronic pain
Goethe already recognized: "By health I do not mean freedom from impairments, but the strength to live with them". According to a study published by the Medical University of Vienna in autumn 2017, 25 percent of all people in Austria suffer from chronic pain. The 2016 Barmer Krankenkasse medical report also pointed to a steady increase in patients with chronic pain in Germany. A new study from Vienna shows how one's own health literacy can have a positive effect on the perceived pain intensity.
The research team headed by Thomas Dorner from the Center for Public Health at the Medical University of Vienna examined the extent to which holistic patient self-management affects chronic pain. The results were clear: a higher level of health literacy is associated with a more positive course of chronic pain. Health literacy refers to the ability of a person to find, process and use health-related information and offers both in the personal area and with medical support. The results of the study were published in the “Wiener clinical weekly”.
Even is the person with chronic pain
According to Dorner, a higher level of personal health literacy in patients with chronic pain is associated with less disability from the pain. "Increasing health literacy across the population is a powerful tool that can help prevent chronic pain," Dorner said in a press release from the university about the study results. Pain intensity and quality of life restrictions can be reduced and unnecessary medical measures due to pain can be avoided. This also includes maintaining social contacts so as not to end up in isolation. The development of psychological coping resources is also conducive to coping with pain.
Chronic pain is complex
The treatment of chronic pain is not just limited to pain. According to the medical experts, chronic pain is complex and includes biological, psychological and social aspects. Depression, sleep disorders, impairments in sex life and other consequences in private and work life are common side effects of chronic pain.
The downward spiral of pain
"Many people with chronic pain are not looking for professional help and do not have the necessary skills in self-management," explains Dorner. This starts a dramatic spiral turning downwards. The person concerned goes into work without therapy with pain, makes mistakes and can no longer work properly. As a consequence, he loses his job, the social contacts that are mostly associated with it, and his self-esteem. Total isolation followed. All of these problems would add to the chronic pain.
More management than healing
Dorner emphasizes that many of the additional restrictions that chronic pain bring with it need to be "managed" rather than cured. "Chronic pain therefore often requires patient-centered, personalized, integrated care with multi-professional teams, in which the patient and not the illness is the focus of treatment," summarizes Dorner. With the help of perfect self-management, the patient himself can also be an equal part of this team. (vb)