Demographic Characteristics Associated With Utilization of Noninvasive Treatments for Chronic Low Back Pain and Related Clinical Outcomes During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States.

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This study was conducted to determine if limited access to health care during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted utilization of recommended nonpharmacological treatments, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and opioids by patients with chronic low back pain and affected clinical outcomes relating to pain intensity and disability.Participants within the Pain Registry for Epidemiological, Clinical, and Interventional Studies and Innovation were eligible if they provided encounter data in the 3 months immediately before and after the national emergency proclamation date (NEPD).The mean age of the 528 study participants was 53.9 years and 74.1% were women. Utilization of exercise therapy, massage therapy, and spinal manipulation decreased during the pandemic. Increasing age was associated with decreased utilization of all nonpharmacological treatments except exercise therapy, and with increased opioid use during the pandemic. African American participants reported decreased utilization of yoga and spinal manipulation during the pandemic. Overall, mean change scores for pain intensity and disability before and after the NEPD were not significant. However, African American participants consistently reported worse pain intensity and disability outcomes during the pandemic. Marginally worse outcomes were observed less consistently for pain intensity with increasing age and for disability among women.Social distancing during the pandemic impacted the uptake of recommended nonpharmacological treatments for chronic low back pain that require visiting community-based facilities or interacting closely with providers.The pandemic threatens to exacerbate the impact of chronic low back pain, particularly among African American patients and the older population, by impeding access to guideline-informed noninvasive treatments.

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Authors: John C Licciardone