Social support buffers the negative influence of perceived injustice on pain interference in people living with HIV and chronic pain

Pain Rep. 2019 Mar 14;4(2):e710. doi: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000710. eCollection Mar-Apr 2019.


Introduction: A growing literature attests to the overwhelming prevalence of disabling chronic pain among people living with HIV (PLWH), yet very little is known about psychosocial contributors to poor chronic pain outcomes in this population. Pain-related perception of injustice may promote pain interference by hindering engagement in daily activities among individuals with chronic pain. Social support has been shown to buffer the negative impact of harmful beliefs on well-being and facilitate adjustment to chronic pain.

Objective: This cross-sectional study tested the buffering hypothesis of social support to determine whether increasing levels of social support mitigate the negative influence of perceived injustice on pain interference.

Methods: A total of 60 PLWH with chronic pain completed measures of perceived injustice, social support, pain severity, and interference, as well as depressive symptoms.

Results: In a regression-based model adjusted for age, sex, depressive symptoms, and pain severity, results indicated that social support significantly moderated (ie, buffered) the association between perceived injustice and pain interference (P = 0.028). Specifically, it was found that perceived injustice was significantly associated with greater pain interference among PLWH with low levels of social support (P = 0.047), but not those with intermediate (P = 0.422) or high levels of social support (P = 0.381).

Conclusion: Pain-related injustice perception reflects harmful beliefs regarding severity of loss consequent to chronic pain development, a sense of unfairness, and irreparability of loss. Access to a social support network may provide an adaptive means of mitigating the negative effects of perceived injustice.

Keywords: Chronic pain; HIV; Pain interference; Perceived injustice; Social support.