Chronic Pain Patients at Higher Risk for Coronavirus

Chronic Pain Patients Are at Higher Risk for CoronavirusBy Lynn Webster, M.D. – Feb 2020

In this article Dr. Webster makes an important point: the ravages of chronic pain affect our susceptibility to other illnesses because our whole bodies, including our immune system, are affected by the constant stress brought about by this constant biological state of high alert.

It might be worthwhile showing this article (link above) to your doctor, including the scientific article explaining the research (link below).

The people with increased risk for experiencing severe symptoms, and possibly dying of COVID-19, are seniors and those with chronic illness.  

Of course, people in chronic pain are part of this risk group.

People with chronic pain may be more susceptible to viruses in general,because chronic pain can change the way our immune systems work.

McGill University researchers found that “chronic pain changes the way DNA is marked, not only in the brain but also in T cells, a type of white blood cell essential for immunity.”

Researchers were surprised by the number of genes affected by chronic pain, and hope their findings will lead them to new treatments.

About Dr. Lynn Webster
Lynn Webster M.D., FACPM, FASAM is Vice President of Scientific Affairs at PRA Healthsciences and a Past President of AAPM. He is board certified in anesthesiology and pain medicine and also is certified in addiction medicine.

Impact of chronic pain on the immune system revealed – by Alice Weatherston – Aug 2016

This is by now an old article on the damage done by chronic pain, proving untreated pain is NOT harmless as the public, regulators, and even most doctors seem to believe.

The research team in the current study examined DNA from the brain and white blood cells of rats using methyl marks. “Methyl marks are important for regulating how these genes function,” explained co-author Laura Stone (McGill University).

The team discovered that chronic pain alters the way DNA is marked at an epigenetic level in both the brain and in the T cells of the animals.

Yet the damage of such epigenetic changes is never taken into account when pain patients are told to simply “tolerate” their constant pain.

There has been little research on this troubling “side-effect” of our pain, probably because no research supporting the importance of reducing pain is being funded in this current anti-opioid hype campaign.

If research on the damages wrought by chronic pain were conducted, we might learn why our pain causes us so much incapacity, not just physical but mental and emotional as well.

I’ve found proof for and blogged about this damage consistently over the years.:

  1. Bodily Damage from Uncontrolled Chronic Pain
  2. Bodily Damage from Uncontrolled Chronic Pain Part 2

These two pages have lists and short excerpts from many articles that you can show your doctor to prove your pain is a physical problem, not just a mental and emotional state.

Unfortunately, doctors often assume our pain isn’t damaging in itself because that’s what they are taught in medical school. These articles, many of which are scientific studies, prove our pain definitely degrades our general health.

You can also use the tag ‘PAIN-DAMAGE to find all posts supporting this.

“We were surprised by the sheer number of genes that were marked by the chronic pain — hundreds to thousands of different genes were changed,” commented Moshe Szyf (McGill University).

“Our findings highlight the devastating impact of chronic pain on other important parts of the body such as the immune system” added Szyf.

This is proof that it’s critical for good health that chronic pain be treated and kept to manageable levels. Simply taking away opioids is even more “dangerous” than allowing their use to control pain (for all but the 1-3% who are susceptible to addiction).

“We can now consider the implications that chronic pain might have on other systems in the body that we don’t normally associate with pain,” continued Szyf.

The team hope to identify new opportunities for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain in humans, utilizing the genetic markers of chronic pain as targets for novel medications.

(I can’t resist pointing out that this scientist has a Polish name similar to my alias, which is a jumble from my Polish last name. The name Szyf is pronounced Shiff, and Zyp Czyk, which is pronounced Zip Chick.)

See also a previous post: Chronic pain changes our immune systems

4 thoughts on “Chronic Pain Patients at Higher Risk for Coronavirus

  1. richard haney

    WAR on OPIOIDS is putting Chronic Pain suffers at HIGH RISK for Covid-19 Simply by forcing us to go to the clinic MONTHLY and getting exposed to a variety of raspatory patients. Having to sit with them for 30 min. for a visit with the Dr.. Just to get my monthly prescription.
    They are really putting lives of the disabled an the poor in danger. Not to mention the added Cost of 12 visits a year instead of 4 visits. to get medication or I cant walk
    We cant even get Tele visits , or video visits. for pain meds.
    Its Sick what the consequences the force on us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      I read that some states now allow telemedicine, so follow-up monthly or quarterly “visits” can be a phone call. Prescriptions can be sent electronically, but have to be picked up from the pharmacy by the patient or a designated other – at least that’s the situation in California and how it has worked for me (yes, I know I’m incredibly lucky).

      Our doctors don’t want to be exposed to our potential virus either and, because they see multiple people all day, their risk is far greater than ours. These days, they would probably refuse to see their pain patients every month, no matter what the rules say.


      1. richard haney

        if your correct That would be the safe thing to do, now all I have to do is replace my battery in my phone so I can call an see if they will tele-visit lets hope. its ridiculous when I hurt my back lower lumbar. The Doc. gave me a shot then sent me to a specialist and an MRI its called I guess I was in that big X ray tube, any way after the specialist pondered my results Then came out. and I could tell he had something on his mind. He asked me some questions , but didn’t ask about my pain Instead he said I realize your in a great deal of pain so I’ll write this script to help with it. He said you have 2 Crushed Disc’s in lower lumbar region anyway he said They ae NOT Bulging nor herniated they are basically pancaked , Crushed, There just not there Told me to go back to my Regular have him do his thing, That was 9 years ago, They cant be fixed, I’m in constant pain 24/7 the Norco helps but it is always there like a fist putting pressure constantly That’s when the medication is working
        Now I took the long way round the barn to get to my point
        WILL the CDC ever take cases like mine with verifiable proof of life long painful injury that cant be fixed. Will they allow US to go back to the DR’s at least every 3 months instead of every month ? its putting undue burden n Hardship on a lot of us. well its wish full thinking. GOOD LUCK with every thing
        I don’t even think bureaucrats can think In terms of HARM They are Doing to law bidding folks.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Zyp Czyk Post author

          I can’t believe anyone would deny you relief for crushed disks because that can even be seen on MRI. Our pain is usually invisible to them, so they always assume we want opioids for pleasure.

          I’ve had a few doctors who believed me when I said I didn’t want to take them, but had to for my pain. When a doctor believes us, everything gets so much easier and when they don’t, life becomes almost impossible.

          Hope you can get your phone working again and schedule a telemedicine visit (CMS relaxed the rules so docs can get paid for that). Good luck!



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