Distraction from chronic pain during a pain-inducing activity is associated with greater post-activity pain

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The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of distraction from pain during and after a pain-inducing lifting task in a sample of chronic low back pain (CLBP) patients. Fifty-two CLBP patients (25 males, 27 females; mean age=46.30 years) performed a pain-inducing lifting task twice, once alone and once with a simultaneous cognitive distraction task. The results revealed that (1) distraction had no effect upon self-reported pain during the lifting task, (2) distraction had a paradoxical effect of more pain immediately after the lifting task, (3) both pain-related fear and pain catastrophizing did not moderate the effects of distraction on pain, but (4) catastrophic thinking about pain during the lifting task was related to more vigilance to pain and less engagement in the distracting task. Further investigation of the catastrophizing data showed that the effect of catastrophizing about pain during the lifting task on the cognitive distraction task was mediated by the amount of attention paid to pain. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

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