All Fatigue is Not Created Equal: The Association of Fatigue and Its Subtypes on Pain Interference in Orofacial Pain

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Fatigue is known to be a pathway through which depression, psychological distress, pain intensity, and sleep disturbance influence pain interference, but the independent effects of fatigue on pain interference after controlling for these variables remains unknown. In addition, no study to date has tested whether fatigue subtypes of general fatigue, mental fatigue, emotional fatigue, physical fatigue, or vigor differentially predict pain interference.


The current study tested these associations using archival medical data of 2133 chronic orofacial pain patients, who completed a battery of psychological questionnaires at the time of their first appointment at an orofacial pain clinic.


Hierarchical linear regression analysis revealed that after controlling for depression, psychological distress, sleep disturbance, pain intensity, and demographic variables, fatigue predicted higher pain interference (B=0.70, SE=0.17, P<0.001, η2=0.01). Physical fatigue (B=1.70, SE=0.48, P<0.001, η2=0.01) and vigor (B=−3.24, SE=0.47, P<0.001, η2=0.03) were independently associated with pain interference after controlling for the aforementioned variables.


The findings suggest that fatigue is an important independent predictor of pain interference and not merely a mediator. These findings also suggest that not all fatigue is created equal. Interventions aimed at reducing pain interference should target specific fatigue symptoms of physical fatigue and vigor. Future research investigating the independent associations of fatigue subtypes on pain outcomes may help clarify the nature of the interrelationships between pain and fatigue.

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