Factors affecting self-efficacy and pain intensity in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain seen in a specialist rheumatology pain clinic

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Chronic musculoskeletal pain is a very common and costly health problem. Patients presenting to rheumatology clinics with chronic pain can be difficult to manage. We studied 354 patients referred to a rheumatology chronic pain clinic over 5 yrs to identify factors affecting their self-efficacy and intensity of pain.


We collected data for each patient, covering demographic and psychosocial factors, characteristics of their pain and previous treatment. We measured self-efficacy using a validated questionnaire, and pain intensity (PI) on an NRS. We performed multiple regression analysis to determine as to which factors were independently associated with these outcomes.


Despite extensive previous investigations and treatment, these patients had low self-efficacy [median=26.5, interquartile range (IQR) 15–38, best possible=60] and high PI scores (median=7, worst possible=10, IQR 5–9). Low self-efficacy was most clearly associated with depressive symptoms and not being employed. PI was most clearly associated with depressive symptoms, extensive pain and lower level of education.


Community-based studies suggest psychosocial factors are very important in determining outcomes in patients with chronic pain. This study suggests that the same is true in patients referred to rheumatologists due to chronic musculoskeletal pain and that these factors—particularly depressive symptoms and not being employed—are more important than site or duration of pain in those patients.

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