The reliability of retrospective and daily pain measurements was comparable among patients with hip osteoarthritis, except in individuals with severe intermittent pain for whom retrospective measurements may be less reliable, according to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research.

Data from a total of 203 patients with hip osteoarthritis who participated in a randomized controlled trial examining the effect of general practitioner care alone (GP) or in combination with exercise therapy (GP+ET) in patients with hip osteoarthritis were included in the analysis. During the 6-week study period, participants were asked to rate their pain every day (n=185).

At the end of the study, participants retrospectively assessed their pain during the previous week. Researchers compared daily pain measurements with retrospective measurements to determine differences in scores. Differences were explored in the frequency and severity of intermittent pain, pain course, and reliability between the daily and retrospective measurements.

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No difference was found in the overall estimate of pain between the GP and GP+ET groups during the 6-week study (estimate, 0.14; 95% CI, -0.47 to 0.19) or between daily and retrospective measurements with regard to the effect of ET on pain. The reliability of retrospective vs daily pain measurements was found to be lower in study participants with severe or extreme vs mild or moderate intermittent pain (Cronbach α=0.642).

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The reliance on subjective measurements of pain, the use of paper vs electronic diaries, and the relatively small number of participants in the trial represent the study’s primary limitations.

Verification of this study requires additional research of pain measurement in patients with osteoarthritis and “should focus on comparing the reliability of retrospective, daily, and multiple momentary measurements.”

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Teirlinck CH, Sonneveld DS, Bierma-Zeinstra SMA, Luijsterburg PAJ. Daily pain measurements and retrospective pain measurements in hip osteoarthritis patients with intermittent pain [published online July 19, 2018]. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). doi: 10.1002/acr.23711