The influence of pain-related beliefs on physical activity and health attitudes in patients with claudication: A pilot study

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Abstract

We examined how pain beliefs are related to symptom severity, expectations of risk/benefits, and baseline physical activity among claudicants. Eligible patients at the Michael E DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center were administered questionnaires that measured: fear-avoidance beliefs (Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire [FABQ]), walking impairment, baseline physical activity, claudication type, and risk/benefit attitudes. Among 20 participants, the median age was 69 years (IQR: 66–75). In our efforts to understand how fear-avoidance beliefs influenced physical activity among people with claudication, we found that 12 out of 19 participants (63%) thought that the primary etiology of their pain was walking, while 18 (out of 20) (90%) people thought that walking would exacerbate their leg symptoms – suggesting that there was some confusion regarding the effects of walking on claudication. Those who expected that walking would benefit their symptoms more than surgery reported fewer fear-avoidance beliefs (p=0.01), but those who believed that walking would make their leg pain worse expected greater benefit from surgery (p=0.02). As symptom severity increased, fear-avoidance beliefs also increased (p=0.001). The association between symptom severity and fear-avoidance beliefs indicates that as pain or impairment increases, the likelihood of avoiding behaviors that are thought to cause pain might also increase. Accounting for pain-related beliefs when recommending physical activity for claudication should be considered.

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