Prevalence and characteristics of pain in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease compared to the Norwegian general population

J Pain. 2011 May;12(5):539-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.10.014.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate the prevalence and characteristics of pain in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared to a sample from the Norwegian general population. This cross-sectional study evaluated 100 COPD patients with and without pain and 333 individuals from the Norwegian population with pain. After controlling for age and sex, a significantly higher percentage of patients with COPD (45%) reported pain than the general population (34%; P = .02). No differences were found in pain intensity scores, pain interference score, or number of pain locations between COPD patients and the general population. COPD patients reported moderate-to-severe pain located primarily in the chest, shoulders, neck, and thorax. For both groups, the most common pain treatment was analgesic use. Acupuncture/transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation was used more frequently by COPD patients (P < .001) while physiotherapy was used more frequently by the general population (P = .007) to treat their pain. Pain is a significant problem for COPD patients. Additional research is warranted to replicate these findings and to provide a more detailed characterization of how pain changes over time and influences COPD patients' ability to function and their quality of life.

Perspective: Compared to the general population, pain is more common in patients with COPD and ranges from moderate to severe in its intensity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation