Posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) are highly prevalent in chronic pain patients and may affect pain symptomatology negatively, but there is still a great need to explore exactly how this occurs. Therefore, this study investigated differences in pain intensity, pain-related disability, and psychological distress between chronic pain patients not exposed to a trauma, patients exposed to a trauma with no PTSS, and patients exposed to a trauma with PTSS. Moreover, the moderating effects of PTSS on the associations between pain intensity and pain-related disability and psychological distress were investigated.
In this cross-sectional cohort study, data were consecutively collected over the course of a year in patients with chronic non-malignant pain referred for multidisciplinary pain rehabilitation at a Danish university hospital pain center using questionnaires assessing pain, pain-related disability, PTSS, anxiety, and depression.
The final sample consisted of 682 chronic pain patients, who were divided into three subgroups (no trauma, 40.6%; trauma/no PTSS, 40.5%; trauma/PTSS, 18.9%). Chronic pain patients with PTSS reported significantly higher levels of pain intensity, pain-related disability, depression, and anxiety compared to chronic pain patients without a trauma and chronic pain patients without PTSS. Moreover, PTSS significantly moderated the associations between pain intensity and pain-related psychosocial disability, depression, and anxiety.