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Smoking cigarettes as a coping strategy for chronic pain is associated with greater pain intensity and poorer pain-related function.
Patterson AL, Gritzner S, Resnick MP, Dobscha SK, Turk DC, Morasco BJ. Smoking cigarettes as a coping strategy for chronic pain is associated with greater pain intensity and poorer pain-related function. The journal of pain : official journal of the American Pain Society. 2012 Mar 1; 13(3):285-92.
Smoking cigarettes is prevalent among individuals with chronic pain. Some studies indicate nicotine reduces pain and others suggest it may cause or exacerbate pain. Participants in this cross-sectional study were 151 chronic pain patients from a large, urban VA medical center. Patients were divided into 3 groups: 1) nonsmokers; 2) smokers who deny using cigarettes to cope with pain; and 3) smokers who report using cigarettes to cope with pain. Patients who reported smoking as a coping strategy for chronic pain scored significantly worse compared with the other 2 groups on the majority of measures of pain-related outcome. Nonsmokers and smokers who denied smoking to cope did not differ on any variable examined. After controlling for the effects of demographic and clinical factors, smoking cigarettes as a coping strategy for pain was significantly and positively associated with pain intensity (P = .04), pain interference (P = .005), and fear of pain (P = .04). In addition to assessing general smoking status, a more specific assessment of the chronic pain patient's reasons for smoking may be an important consideration as part of interdisciplinary pain treatment. PERSPECTIVE: This paper describes the relationship between smoking cigarettes as a mechanism to cope with chronic pain and pain-related outcome. Understanding this relationship may illuminate the broader relationship between smoking and chronic pain and provide new directions for effective interdisciplinary pain treatment.