Published: 14-12-2021 16:48 | Updated: 14-12-2021 16:57

New thesis about chronic pain and sickness absence

Hi, Riccardo Lo Martire, PhD student at the Division of Physiotherapy, NVS. On January 14 you will defend your thesis ”Sickness absence among patients with chronic pain in Swedish specialist healthcare”, what's the main focus of the thesis?

Riccardo Lo Martire, PhD student at the Division of Physiotherapy, NVS. Photo: Lea Constan.

Chronic pain is a public health problem that causes great suffering and represents an enormous socioeconomic burden due to sickness absence. My thesis provides a sickness absence overview among those most affected by chronic pain, explores the possibility of prevention, and evaluates to what extent sickness absence is reduced by interdisciplinary treatment; the most complex chronic pain intervention offered in Sweden today.

Which are the most important results? 

The results confirm that sickness absence indeed is high among these patients. Nearly half of them were on sickness absence at the specialist healthcare entry and it was only slightly lower after two years. To some extent, it was possible to discriminate between patients with low and high future sickness absence at entry into specialist healthcare. Finally, our investigation found that interdisciplinary treatment did not reduce sickness absence more than less intensive treatment alternatives over a five-year period; although we could not eliminate the possibility that this result was a consequence of our study design.

How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people’s health? 

In the longer perspective, an improved intervention through increased adaptation at an earlier stage. Simultaneously, it emphasizes the need to rethink the evaluation of chronic pain interventions. It is still common that study designs are used, which contribute only minimally to knowledge. Increased collaboration between research and health care, together with better use of Sweden's national register, enables cost-effective long-term evaluation with potential for clear conclusions.

What´s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research? 

As a statistician at the Center for Clinical Research Falun, my everyday life revolves around research and I will also continue with register-based studies on chronic pain. In the future, my plan is to examine chronic pain from a life course perspective for a more holistic overview of its socioeconomic consequences.