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American Society for Action on Pain

Author: Schnurr-R-F. MacDonald-M-R.

Title: Memory complaints in chronic pain.

Source: Clin-J-Pain. 1995 Jun. 11(2). P 103-11.



OBJECTIVE: In clinical practice, patients with chronic pain frequently report problems with memory functioning. This issue, however, has received little attention in the scientific literature. The present study was designed to investigate this common problem and to stimulate research interest in this neglected and important area.

DESIGN: Self-reported memory problems were investigated in two groups of chronic pain patients--patients with pain from acceleration-deceleration automobile accidents (n = 56) and patients with pain from various work accidents (n = 27)--and two control groups involving medical/dental (n = 24) and psychotherapy patients (n = 20). SETTING: Private practice, chronic pain, rehabilitation psychology services. RESULTS: Our findings suggest that memory complaints are higher in patients with chronic pain than in medical/dental or psychotherapy patients. No differences were found between chronic pain groups. On more general measures of memory complaint, differences between pain patients and controls were attributed to the severity of patients' depression. On a questionnaire designed to be more specific to memory complaint in chronic pain patients, differences in memory complaint between pain patients and controls were found, even after the effects due to depression were statistically removed. Although pain patients often attribute their memory problems to codeine use and/or psychoactive medications, there was no support for this in the present study.

CONCLUSIONS: Within the limitations of this study, these findings suggest that memory complaints may be related not only to depression but also to the presence of chronic pain. Further research in this area is needed.