Objective: Managing multiple chronic health conditions is a significant challenge. The purpose of this study was to examine the experience and management of chronic pain among adult patients with other complex chronic conditions, specifically diabetes and heart failure (HF).
Methods: We surveyed 624 US Department of Veterans Affairs primary care patients in 3 study groups: 184 with HF, 221 with diabetes, and 219 general primary care users. We compared health status and function between those with and without chronic pain within the 3 study groups. Among those with chronic pain, we compared pain location, severity, and treatment across groups.
Results: More than 60% in each group reported chronic pain, with the majority reporting pain in the back, hip, or knee. In all groups, patients with chronic pain were more likely to report fair or poor health than those without pain (P<0.05). In the HF and diabetes groups, a higher percentage of patients with pain were not working because of health reasons. Of those with pain, more than 70% in each group took medications for pain; more than one-half managed pain with rest or sedentary activities; and less than 50% used exercise for managing their pain.
Discussion: Chronic pain is a prevalent problem that is associated with poor functioning among multimorbid patients. Better management of chronic pain among complex patients could lead to significant improvements in health status, functioning, and quality of life and possibly also improve the management of their other major chronic health conditions.