Adult athletes who underwent knee surgery and had higher levels of preoperative pain catastrophizing were significantly less likely to return to preinjury activity, based on data from 101 individuals.
Pain is highly subjective, and pain perception can play a role in postsurgical outcomes, but the relationships among preoperative pain perception and short-term outcomes including returning to sports have not been well-studied, wrote, of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, and colleagues.
In a study published in the, the researchers assessed 101 adult athletes who underwent knee surgery at a single center. The average age of the patients was 33 years, and 49 were women.
Pain perception and coping were assessed via the McGill Pain questionnaire (SF-MPQ), Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS), Pain Coping Measure (PCM), and the brief COPE subscales of acceptance, denial, positive reframing, and use of instrumental support.
Patients who were severe pain catastrophizers (defined as scores greater than 36 on the Pain Catastrophizing Scale) had increased odds of not returning to a similar level of sport (OR 11.3).
Higher scores on the brief COPE subscale of “use of instrumental support” (instruments designed to help patients cope with pain) had a protective effect on returning to preinjury activity (OR 0.72 per point increase). However, higher COPE-denial scores were significantly associated with lower odds of improvement in kinesiophobia (OR 0.43).
Patients with greater levels of problem-focused coping had significantly greater improvement in International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) scores, as did patients who were older and more active.
“Specific coping strategies appear to moderate the effect of pain perceptions on postoperative outcomes, with some coping strategies being protective and others being harmful,” the researchers said.
The findings were limited by several factors including the use of multiple comparisons, the inability to assess the impact of pain perception after knee rehabilitation independent of surgery, and the small number of some uncommon procedures, the researchers noted.
However, the results suggest that “recognition of pain perception and coping styles early on in treatment may help sports medicine providers identify patients at risk for an unsatisfactory subjective outcome,” they concluded.
The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.
SOURCE: Everhart JS et al. J Sci Med Sport. 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2019.09.011.