An observational study of pain self-management strategies and outcomes: Does type of pain, age, or gender, matter?

Marion K Slack, Ramon Chavez, Daniel Trinh, Daniel Vergel De Dios, Jeannie K Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Acute pain is differentiated from chronic pain by its sudden onset and short duration; in contrast, chronic pain is characterized by a duration of at least several months, typically considered longer than normal healing time. Despite differences in definition, there is little information on how types of self-management strategies or outcomes differ when pain is chronic rather than acute. Additionally, age and gender are thought to be related to types of strategies used and outcomes. However, strategies used and outcomes can be influenced by level of education, socioeconomic status, occupation, and access to the health care system, which can confound associations to type of pain, age or gender. The purpose of this study was to examine the association of strategies used for pain self-management and outcomes with type of pain, acute or chronic, age, or gender in a socioeconomically homogenous population, pharmacists. Methods: Pharmacists with acute or chronic pain and a valid email completed an on-line questionnaire on demographic characteristics, pain characteristics, pharmacological and non-pharmacological strategies for managing pain, and outcomes (e.g. pain intensity). Univariate analysis was conducted by stratifying on type of pain (acute or chronic), then stratifying on gender (men vs. women) and age (younger vs. older). The a priori alpha level was 0.05. Results: A total of 366 pharmacists completed the questionnaire, 212 with acute pain (average age=44±12.1; 36% men) and 154 with chronic pain (average age=53±14.0; 48% men). The chronic pain group reported substantially higher levels of pain before treatment, level of post-treatment pain, level of pain at which sleep was possible, and goal pain levels (effect sizes [ES's]=0.37-0.61). The chronic pain group were substantially more likely to use prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), opioids, and non-prescription pain relievers (ES's=0.29-0.80), and non-medical strategies (ES's=0.56-0.77). Participants with chronic pain also were less confident (ES=0.54) and less satisfied (ES=0.52). In contrast, there were no differences within either the acute or chronic pain groups related to gender and outcomes. In the acute pain group, there also were no gender differences related to management strategies. However, younger age in the acute pain group was associated with use of herbal remedies and use of rest. Within the chronic pain group, men were more likely to use NSAIDS and women more likely to use hot/cold packs or massage while older participants were more likely to use massage. Variability in post-treatment level of pain and percent relief was high in all groups (coefficient of variation=25%-100%). Conclusions: The differences between acute and chronic pain were substantial and included differences in demographic characteristics, pain characteristics, management strategies used, and outcomes. In contrast, few associations between age and gender with either management strategies or outcomes were identified, although the variability was high. Implications: When managing or researching pain management, acute pain should be differentiated from chronic pain. Because of the substantial variability within the gender and age groups, an individual approach to pain management irrespective of age and gender may be most useful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-656
Number of pages12
JournalScandinavian Journal of Pain
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • acute pain
  • age
  • chronic pain
  • gender
  • pain outcomes
  • self-management of pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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