Public Health Expert Discusses Potential Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Access to Recommended First-Line Treatments for Chronic Pain

Newswise — An estimated 50 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic pain, including 20 million with high-impact pain that affects their work or lives most days or every day. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many more people are now struggling to manage their chronic pain.

Regents Professor John C. Licciardone is a board-certified physician in Public Health and Preventive Medicine and Director of the Pain Registry for Epidemiological, Clinical, and Interventional Studies and Innovation (PRECISION) at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He discusses recent PRECISION research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are the common treatment options for people with chronic pain?

Clinical practice guidelines from such organizations as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Physicians (ACP) generally recommend starting with non-pharmacological treatments, and then progressing to drug treatment. Patients who have not adequately responded to these treatments may be considered candidates for opioids, if the potential benefit outweighs the risk.

Which treatments for chronic pain may be adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our research published immediately prior to the COVID-19 pandemic found that non-pharmacological treatments were not being used by patients with chronic low back pain as often as recommended in the CDC and ACP guidelines. Common examples of these underutilized treatments that may be further impacted by the pandemic include massage therapy, spinal manipulation, yoga, and acupuncture. It will be interesting to see if this phenomenon results in greater reliance on drug treatment, including opioids, during the pandemic.

Are there patient subgroups that may be disproportionately affected during the pandemic and shutdowns?

Our research found that older Americans and African-Americans were least likely to use non-pharmacological treatments for chronic low back pain prior to the pandemic. Out-of-pocket costs for these treatments may be a possible explanation for this finding, as they are not universally covered by many health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.

Access to these non-pharmacological treatments will be further diminished during the pandemic and related shutdowns because treatment providers may not be available, or the treatments may require close personal contact that is not compatible with current social distancing guidelines.

How important are these non-pharmacological treatments in the overall management of chronic pain?

In our study, patients who had used at least one of these non-pharmacological treatments (massage therapy, spinal manipulation, yoga, or acupuncture) reported significantly lower levels of pain intensity and back-related disability than patients who had not used any of these treatments. Thus, they appear to be very important components in the management of chronic pain.

How is PRECISION functioning during the pandemic and shutdowns?

Fortunately, the impact of the pandemic has been minimal. Our registry uses digital technology to conduct all aspects of its research. People with chronic low back pain who live in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia may screen to see if they qualify for the study. More information about the PRECISION Pain Research Registry may be found at


Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2011
Released: 29-May-2020 11:55 PM EDT
Heart surgery stalled as COVID-19 spread
University of Ottawa

As the novel coronavirus spread across the globe in early 2020, hospitals worldwide scaled back medical procedures, including life-saving heart surgery, to deal with the emerging threat of COVID-19.

Released: 29-May-2020 11:30 PM EDT
UCLA AASC & FSPH launch COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub to support safety for diverse communities
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub to support safety for diverse communities; partnership develops resources for COVID-19 response

Newswise: UTEP Study Examines COVID-19 Stress, Coping Strategies, and Well-Being
Released: 29-May-2020 6:15 PM EDT
UTEP Study Examines COVID-19 Stress, Coping Strategies, and Well-Being
University of Texas at El Paso

Emre Umucu, Ph.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation counseling at The University of Texas at El Paso, and Beatrice Lee, an incoming rehabilitation counseling faculty member, examined the perceived stress levels and coping mechanisms related to COVID-19, and how coping affects well-being in people with self-reported chronic conditions and disabilities.

Newswise: 233197_web.jpg
Released: 29-May-2020 4:55 PM EDT
CT findings of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in children 'often negative'
American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS)

An investigation published open-access in the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) revealed a high frequency of negative chest CT findings among pediatric patients with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19), while also suggesting that bilateral, lower lobe-predominant ground-glass opacities (GGOs) are common in the subset of patients with positive CT findings.

Newswise: 233198_web.jpg
Released: 29-May-2020 4:40 PM EDT
Modelling predicts COVID-19 resurgence if physical distancing relaxed
University of Guelph

If physical distancing measures in Ontario are relaxed too much or too quickly, the province could see hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients as well as exponential growth in deaths, concludes new research involving a University of Guelph infectious disease modeller.

Released: 29-May-2020 3:35 PM EDT
Using Wastewater to Track, Contain SARS-CoV-2
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Researchers took a novel approach to tracking the virus that causes COVID-19 that promises to be cost effective and ensure privacy by using a method that surveils for the virus in a local's untreated wastewater facilities.

Newswise: fimmu-11-01208-g001.jpg
Released: 29-May-2020 2:40 PM EDT
Genetics May Explain High COVID-19 Mortality in Italy, Inform Global Pandemic Response
Sbarro Health Research Organization (SHRO)

Researchers predict the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) gene has a key role in shaping immune response to COVID.

Released: 29-May-2020 1:40 PM EDT
Study finds surge in hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine prescriptions during COVID-19
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital examines changes in prescription patterns in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Showing results

110 of 2011