Psychosocial Correlates of Objective, Performance-Based, and Patient-Reported Physical Function Among Patients with Heterogeneous Chronic Pain

J Pain Res. 2020 Sep 10;13:2255-2265. doi: 10.2147/JPR.S266455. eCollection 2020.


Background: Improving all aspects of physical function is an important goal of chronic pain management. Few studies follow recent guidelines to comprehensively assess physical function via patient-reported, performance-based, and objective/ambulatory measures.

Purpose: To test 1) the interrelation between the 3 types of physical function measurement and 2) the association between psychosocial factors and each type of physical function measurement.

Methods: Patients with chronic pain (N=79) completed measures of: 1) physical function (patient-reported disability; performance-based 6-minute walk-test; objective accelerometer step count); 2) pain and non-adaptive coping (pain during rest and activity, pain-catastrophizing, kinesiophobia); 3) adaptive coping (mindfulness, general coping, pain-resilience); and 4) social-emotional dysfunction (anxiety, depression, social isolation and emotional support). First, we tested the interrelation among the 3 aspects of physical function. Second, we used structural equation modeling to test associations between psychosocial factors (pain and non-adaptive coping, adaptive coping, and social-emotional dysfunction) and each measurement of physical function.

Results: Performance-based and objective physical function were significantly interrelated (r=0.48, p<0.001) but did not correlate with patient-reported disability. Pain and non-adaptive coping (β=0.68, p<0.001), adaptive coping (β=-0.65, p<0.001) and social-emotional dysfunction (β=0.65, p<0.001) were associated with patient-reported disability but not to performance-based or objective physical function (ps>0.1).

Conclusion: Results suggest that patient-reported physical function may provide limited information about patients' physical capacity or ambulatory activity. While pain and non-adaptive reactions to it, adaptive coping, and social-emotional dysfunction may potentially improve patient-reported physical function, additional targets may be needed to improve functional capacity and ambulatory activity.

Trial registration: NCT03412916.

Keywords: accelerometer; chronic pain; physical function; psychosocial factors; six-minute walk test.

Associated data


Grant support

This study was funded by an R34 grant from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (1R34AT009356-01A1) to the senior author.