Duration: 01 June 2021 - 30 January 2024
Funder: Medical Research Council
Chief investigator: Professor Gary Macfarlane
Other UoA co-investigators: Dr Rosemary Hollick, Dr Elaine Wainwright, Professor Paul McNamee
Research co-investigator: Dr LaKrista Morton
Chronic pain has many causes and is often musculoskeletal in nature. It affects the kind of work people do and how they engage in it - from impacting how much work one can do on a day-to-day basis, to long-term career choices. However, there is currently no standard questionnaire that can fully explore and measure the many different impacts of chronic pain on people’s ability to work.
Existing questionnaires assume people have one job and are contracted to work a certain number of hours every week, and do not ask about the different ways pain might affect work.. We aim to develop a questionnaire that can be used to assess the many different ways in which chronic pain affects work ability, taking into account modern ways of working (such as holding several part-time jobs, having "zero hours" contracts or combining employment with self-employment). By doing this we aim to create an instrument that can be used in future studies to assess the impacts of chronic pain on working life in a variety of contexts.
- What is the background to this study?
Chronic pain is pain that persists over months or years and fails to respond to usual pain care. It has many causes but it is often musculoskeletal in nature (for example, back pain). Chronic pain affects the kind of work people do and how they engage in it, in a range of different ways - from impacting how much work one can do on a day-to-day basis, to long-term career choices. There is currently no standard questionnaire that can fully explore or measure the impact of chronic pain on people’s ability to work. Existing questionnaires assume people have one job and are contracted to work a certain number of hours every week. They do not ask about the different ways pain might affect work and they are not designed for modern ways of working, such as holding several part-time jobs or having "zero hours" contracts.
- What are the main aims of the study?
We aim to develop a questionnaire that can be used to assess the many different ways in which chronic pain affects work ability, taking into account modern ways of working. By doing this we aim to create a standardised instrument that can be used in future studies to assess and compare the impacts of chronic pain on working life in a variety of contexts.
- What will this research involve?
In order to develop the questionnaire, we will carry out three distinct pieces of research work (called workpackages), with a DELPHI process being conducted in between workpackages two and three:
We will first conduct a review of the scientific literature to identify any existing questionnaires which ask about impacts of chronic pain on work.
The second phase of the study will involve focus groups with various stakeholders to further explore the ways in which chronic pain impacts individuals’ ability to engage with work. Using this information, in combination with the output of Workpackage 1, we will develop a draft of a new questionnaire, using relevant items from existing questionnaires, adapting them if necessary, and/or by creating new ones as needed
We will further refine the wording/content of the questions during rounds of feedback from patient partners, a range of employers, representatives of all the different relevant expert groups and policy-makers to make sure it is easy to understand and covers all the relevant areas.
Finally, we will assess the validity and usability of the new instrument by asking people with chronic pain to complete the new questionnaire. We will also seek perspectives on how easy it was to understand the questions, whether they thought that important work-issues were missed out, and for any other feedback. We will also collect face-to-face feedback from some participants. We will then hold a final workshop with key stakeholders to finalise the questionnaire.
- How will this research benefit patients?
The goal of this project is to create a new questionnaire which has been agreed by patients and other important stakeholder groups which can successfully measure the ways that chronic pain impacts on work in all types of settings. This questionnaire can then be used to assess and quantify the impact of positive health interventions on working, for example, to show whether pain treatments are good at helping people with pain cope better at work, or whether changes made in workplaces have improved work ability for people with chronic pain.
- Study team
- Dr Karen Walker-Bone (University of Southampton)
- Dr Ira Madan (Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust)
- Professor Nicola Fear (King’s College London)
- Dr Nicola Goodson (Aintree University Hospitals)
- Dr Suzanne Verstappen (University of Manchester)
- Dr Paul McNamee
- Dr Rosemary Hollick
- Who is funding the study?
This study is funded by the Medical Research Council.
Absenteeism - Being absent from work, e.g. sickness absence
Presenteeism - Being less productive at work, e.g. requiring more time to complete a given task than was previously/usually needed
Gig economy - Jobs where an individual receives payment for the tasks they complete (e.g. a food delivery) rather than a set wage or salary
Study / methodological terms
Systematic review - A systematic review is a methodology where the literature relevant to a given research question is identified within in a series of pre-specified processes. Relevant data/information from the identified literature is then brought together to provide a synthesis of what we know about a given subject.
Delphi technique - The Delphi technique is a methodology that facilitates communication from a range of experts stakeholders on a given subject matter and ultimately aims to reach consensus from stakeholders on the topic. Input from expert stakeholders is collated, synthesised, and put back to the stakeholder group for further feedback in subsequent rounds until consensus is reached.
Focus groups - Focus groups are a qualitative methodology in which selected individuals provide their perspectives on a given area of discussion, which is moderated by the researcher(s). Within focus groups, data is gathered from the interaction of research participants and therefore differs from the data gathered from one-on-one qualitative data collection methods (e.g. interviews).
Interviews - Interviews are a qualitative methodology in which questions are asked of the research participants by the interviewer/researcher. The questions asked of each participant may evolve within and between interviews, depending on the specific interview methodology utilised.