Newswise — As the increase in over-the-counter pain relievers and accompanying advertisements attest, more people then ever are experiencing severe pain in the lower back, head, neck, extremities and elsewhere.

This also has resulted in a growing number of patients seeking relief at chronic pain treatment centers which, in turn, has provided researchers additional opportunities to explore other factors, such as smoking and patient gender, on one's response to treatment.

In one such study, which will be highlighted at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, researchers at the Mayo Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center in Rochester, Minnesota, found that female patients exhibited higher post treatment improvements in functionality compared to men and that smoking appeared to affect some of the measurements in men, but not women.

The study was designed to build on previous research involving a little over 1,200 men and women admitted to a 3-week outpatient pain treatment program conducted by the Mayo Pain Rehabilitation Center.

Results of the prior study indicated that smokers, regardless of their sex, had significantly worse measures of physical functioning, health perception, pain severity, depression, anxiety and other variables upon admission then non-smokers.

The new study was designed to go a step further and explore how smoking and the sex of the patient impacted the effectiveness of the various pain treatments performed during the 3-week program.

The principle goals of the pain treatment program were to restore physical functionality and reduce or eliminate opioid analgesic medications as well as other medications such as benzodiazepines, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants.

The main findings of the study were that patient gender could be a predictor of differences in functional status of those undergoing treatment for chronic pain. The study also showed that smoking had a more pronounced impact on men than women.

That said, W. Michael Hooten, M.D., who led the study, indicated that continuing functional impairment in men could also be due to work activities and/or other poorly understood societal factors.

While the findings from this study provide important insights into the interaction between smoking and the sex of the patient on the effectiveness of the treatments provided for chronic pain, Dr. Hooten suggests that "further research should focus on developing treatment strategies that could reduce the lower response rates observed in male smokers."

As so often is the case, smoking appears to have a negative impact on obtaining the pain relief so desperately sought by patients seeking out chronic pain treatment.

Anesthesiologists: Physicians providing the lifeline of modern medicine. Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association with 43,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.

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American Society of Anesthesiologists 2008 Annual Meeting