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PainChek® may help in reducing the effects of chronic pain on the immune system during COVID-19

With the recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the UK, including in aged care facilities, many are wondering how to best protect residents during this time. Older people are among the most at-risk for COVID-19, and it’s essential to take every precaution to ensure their bodies are able to fight off disease.

New measures such as social distancing are essential to stave off infections and protect both residents and carers; whilst this is not practical when delivering care, minimising contact should still be part of the drill. Effective pain management remains essential for residential aged care facilities during these times, particularly as chronic pain has been shown to potentially suppress the immune system.

How does chronic pain affect the immune system?

According to research by McGill University, chronic pain may reprogram how genes work in the body by changing how DNA is marked in T cells. These white blood cells are an essential part of the immune system and help orchestrate our body’s response to foreign substances (antigens).

When the DNA is marked differently, this may affect the cells’ ability to identify and fight off antigens, which can in turn lead to a suppressed immune system and leave the body more susceptible to viral infections.

Chronic pain can also trigger stress responses in the body, which causes a rise in cortisol levels. Over a prolonged period of time, research shows that higher cortisol levels can result in a decline in immune system function.


These effects are challenging for residential aged care facilities for multiple reasons. In the UK, around 70% of care home residents live with a form of dementia. Of those, 60-70% people regularly experience pain. In total, across the UK care homes, this impacts nearly 300,000 people.


The majority of these patients experience chronic pain but aren’t always able to articulate it⁠—making it difficult for carers to prescribe accurate and effective pain management treatment. As a result, these patients may be constantly experiencing pain that goes unchecked or untreated, leaving them at higher risk of contracting infections. Furthermore, this leads to behaviours that become increasingly difficult to manage; it is easier to manage pain that it is to manage behaviours.

Effective pain assessment and management with PainChek® 

Untreated pain can weaken immunity and leave aged care residents at a greater risk of viruses like COVID-19. Effective pain management is essential to reduce the risk of infection—and better pain management begins with better pain assessment.

Many tools that are used to assess pain are subjective and manual, making it difficult for carers to accurately gage pain levels and prescribe the correct treatments to help residents manage pain. However, PainChek® provides an accurate means of pain assessment using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to assess and score pain levels in real time. This method of electronic pain assessment has been proven in clinical studies to be a reliable, valid tool that offers significant advantages over current pain assessment methods.

At the same time, PainChek® provides carers with a solution for managing pain safely while reducing the risk of viral transmission. PainChek can be used from up to 3 metres distance, allowing carers to assess patient pain while adhering to social distancing requirements. The assessment takes just two minutes to complete and is all done digitally—limiting interaction time between patients and carers, and reducing the risk of person-to-person transmission. Furthermore, the solution can be delivered in a matter of hours, all remotely, without the need for someone to visit.

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