Objectives: To investigate whether chronic pain patients have deficits in attentional functioning compared with pain-free controls, and whether fibromyalgia patients have larger deficits in attentional functioning compared with rheumatoid arthritis and musculoskeletal pain patients.
Methods: Sixty patients (20 in each of 3 patient groups) and 20 pain-free controls completed measures assessing pain intensity, mood, pain-related disability, somatic awareness, and catastrophic thinking about pain. Attentional functioning was assessed using an age-standardized, ecologically valid test battery. Analyses were made of between-group differences.
Results: Sixty percent of patients had at least one score in the clinical range of neuropsychological impairment, independent of demography and mood. Fibromyalgia patients were more anxious and somatically aware than rheumatoid arthritis or musculoskeletal pain patients, but did not show larger attentional deficits than other patient groups.
Conclusion: All 3 groups of chronic pain patients, regardless of diagnosis, had impaired cognitive functioning on an ecologically sensitive neuropsychological test of everyday attention.