Traumatic events are commonly experienced in the general population and can lead to both psychological and physical consequences. While some may process the experienced event without developing trauma related symptoms in the long term, others develop persistent symptomatology in the form of chronic pain depending on the type of trauma as well as various other risk factors.
The aim of this study was to examine the relationship of the number of lifetime traumas and chronic pain in a sample of transcultural patients to further develop existing research highlighting an association between the number of traumas and chronic pain that may be independent of a categorical diagnosis of PTSD.
Using a case-control design, this study compared 29 chronic pain patients (Gerbershagen II/III) born in former Yugoslavia (21 female; age: 52.5 years, SD 7.3) to 21 patients of a general psychiatric sample who were matched by age- (±5 years), migratory-background, and gender. The number of traumas and PTSD symptomatology were assessed using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ). Somatisation, social dysfunction and anxiety were assessed by the General Health Questionnaire 28 (GHQ-28). The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used to determine the presence of depression.
96.9 % of the chronic pain patients reported at least one traumatic event compared to 76.2 % within the control group (p = 0.029). Likewise, the mean number of reported traumas was significantly higher among the chronic pain group at 12 vs. 7 respectively (p = 0.024). Regarding anxiety, depression and social dysfunction, no significant difference between the two groups was found.
Chronic pain patients with migratory background report an unusually high number of traumatic events. Clinicians should carefully screen for trauma history in this group of patients. The present study supports prior research suggesting a cumulative effect of trauma on chronic pain.