The mediating effect of social functioning on the relationship between catastrophizing and pain among patients with chronic low back pain

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Abstract

Objective: Pain catastrophizing can be characterized as an interpersonal form of coping used to elicit support or empathy from others. Despite intentions of increasing support, catastrophizing can impair social functioning. While considerable work has addressed the relationship between catastrophizing and pain, limited empirical work has examined this relationship within a social context. First, we examined the role of catastrophizing as a potential contributor to group differences (chronic low back pain [cLBP] vs pain-free controls) in social functioning. Then we conducted a follow-up, exploratory analysis to examine the relationships between catastrophizing, social functioning, and pain within the subgroup of participants with cLBP. Methods: In this observational study, participants with cLBP (N ¼ 62) and pain-free controls (N ¼ 79) completed validated measures of pain, social functioning, and pain catastrophizing. A mediation analysis was conducted to examine whether catastrophizing mediated group differences (cLBP vs controls) in social functioning. A follow-up, exploratory mediation analysis then tested whether social functioning mediated the association between catastrophizing and pain within the subgroup of cLBP participants. Results: Participants with cLBP reported higher levels of pain, impaired social functioning, and higher catastrophizing compared to pain-free controls. Catastrophizing partially mediated the group difference in impaired social functioning. Additionally, social functioning mediated the association between higher catastrophizing and greater pain within the subgroup of cLBP participants. Conclusions: We showed that impaired social functioning was driving the relationship between higher pain catastrophizing and worse pain among participants with cLBP. Interventions, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, should address catastrophizing in individuals with cLBP, while simultaneously improving social functioning.

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Papianou, L. N., Wilson, J. M., Edwards, R. R., Sieberg, C. B., & Meints, S. M. (2023). The mediating effect of social functioning on the relationship between catastrophizing and pain among patients with chronic low back pain. Pain Medicine (United States), 24(11), 1244–1250. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnad093

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