A new survey commissioned by Medtronic and conducted by public opinion research firm The Harris Poll has found that 44% of current chronic back and leg pain sufferers have experienced care delays during the COVID-19 pandemic—despite 87% reporting that their pain has either not improved or worsened since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The national survey, entitled “Painful Pandemic: How a Healthcare System Under Strain Impacts Chronic Pain Patients”, involved 810 US adults who currently experience chronic back or leg pain. It found “far-reaching impacts of this debilitating condition on patient lifestyle, everyday activities, and mental state, further exacerbated by the pandemic’s impact on stressed health systems and the ability of patients to seek timely care”, a Medtronic press release states.
Of those who reported worsening chronic pain during the pandemic, 52% cited challenges in receiving appropriate medical care as a contributing factor. Additionally, 44% said that, since the pandemic began, they have experienced care delays, including postponed, rescheduled, or cancelled appointments or procedures for their pain. Of those who proactively postponed their medical care, 55% cited COVID-19 fears as a contributing factor.
Most people currently living with chronic back or leg pain report numerous detrimental physical and mental impacts, Medtronic states. When listing physical challenges associated to living with chronic pain, the survey found sleep, exercise habits, sense of mobility/function, and ability to enjoy hobbies, to be the aspects of life most negatively impacted. Chronic back or leg pain sufferers under 55 years of age were more likely than those aged 55 years and over to report that their ability to work has been impacted (36% vs 22%, respectively), while those over 55 were more likely than those aged 35–54 to say their sense of mobility/function has been impacted (58% vs 46%, respectively).
In addition, 66% reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted and list feelings of frustration, annoyance, exhaustion, and depression, while 67% of surveyed patients also said that it is harder to enjoy spending time with their family.
As a result, some 90% of the patients said they wish there were more treatment options available to manage their pain. While most are aware of traditional treatment options like physical therapy and oral medications, far fewer are familiar with alternative options like targeted drug delivery (38%) or spinal cord stimulation (34%), the report indicates.
On average, those who have seen or talked to a healthcare provider about their chronic back or leg pain first did so seven years ago, while 38% of current chronic back or leg pain sufferers said they have never been referred to a pain specialist physician for their chronic pain.
“These data bear out what we have heard from our clinician customers and patients for two years—the pandemic has been especially hard on those with chronic pain,” said Charlie Covert, vice president and general manager of Pain Therapies within Medtronic’s neuromodulation business. “There is a tangible human cost to deferred procedures and delayed care. As COVID-19 hopefully begins its transition to a more endemic disease, we expect many of these patients to urgently seek relief through new or more effective treatment modalities. Our survey demonstrated that an overwhelming majority want more treatment options, yet awareness of spinal cord stimulation and targeted drug delivery options remains relatively low. That represents an opportunity to educate patients about the full range of options available to help alleviate their pain.”