Although pain is a common symptom in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pain characteristics such as frequency, duration and type are unclear. The primary study aim was to identify these pain characteristics in individuals with COPD versus healthy control participants. The secondary aim was to explore the clinical and psychological associations with pain in those with COPD.
Participants with COPD and age and gender-matched, healthy controls completed questionnaires to elicit pain characteristics. Those with COPD also had assessments of dyspnea, health-related quality of life, psychological associations (anxiety and depression) and physical activity.
Sixty-four participants with COPD (mean [standard deviation (SD)] age 71 , forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV1] 38% predicted) and 64 control participants (mean [SD] age 67  , FEV191% predicted) were included. Chronic pain was more prevalent in individuals with COPD compared to control participants (41% versus 29%, p=0.03). The pain was more prevalent in the chest and upper back (p=0.04). COPD participants with chest or upper back pain had a higher total lung capacity (mean difference 2.0L, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.6 to 3.0L) compared to COPD participants without pain. Greater dyspnea (p<0.001), more depression (p=0.02) and lower physical activity levels (p=0.03) were also present in people with COPD experiencing pain. Chronic pain is common in COPD. It is associated with higher dyspnea and depression and lower physical activity.