Quality of Pain Counts as Much as Intensity, Researchers Say

Carpal tunnel syndrome study shows how different pain measurements can impact quality of life

THURSDAY, Aug. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The quality of pain, not its intensity, should be a key assessment tool for doctors, a new study on carpal tunnel syndrome contends.

The study included 100 patients with carpal tunnel syndrome who were in a clinical trial comparing a 5 percent lidocaine patch to 500 milligrams of naproxen. The patients' sleep quality was assessed and they completed a Brief Pain Inventory questionnaire. Carpal tunnel sydrome is a swelling inside a narrow "tunnel" formed by bone and ligament in the wrist, usually as a result of repetitive motions.

The goal of the study was to examine how pain quality, not pain intensity, is associated with how pain interferes with normal function.

The University of Washington team found that specific pain qualities (sharp, sensitive, deep, surface, etc.) were associated with changes in patient functioning over and above pain intensity and other measures. Itching and throbbing were the pain qualities most strongly associated with impaired function and sleep disruption.

The findings highlights the importance of assessing pain quality when doctors are conducting pain assessments on patients with carpal tunnel syndrome.

"Pain is much more than just intensity and unpleasantness. Knowledge of pain quality, as well as pain intensity, provides additional clues for understanding the impact of pain on a person's life," study author Mark P. Jensen said in an American Pain Society news release.

The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Pain.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about carpal tunnel syndrome.

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