Objective: To determine which factors physicians consider important in patients with chronic generalized posttraumatic pain.
Methods: Using physician membership directories, random samples of 287 Canadian general practitioners, 160 orthopedists, 160 physiatrists, and 160 rheumatologists were surveyed. Each subject was mailed a case scenario describing a 45-year-old woman who sustained a whiplash injury and subsequently developed chronic, generalized pain, fatigue, sleep difficulties, and diffuse muscle tenderness. Respondents were asked whether they agreed with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (FM), and what factors they considered to be important in the development of chronic, generalized posttraumatic pain.
Results: More-recent medical school graduates were more likely to agree with the FM diagnosis. Orthopedists (28.8%) were least likely to agree, while rheumatologists (83.0%) were most likely to agree. On multivariate analysis, 5 factors predicted agreement or disagreement with the diagnosis of FM: (1) number of FM cases diagnosed by the respondent per week (p < 0.0001); (2) patient's sex (p < 0.0001); (3) force of initial impact (p = 0.003); (4) patient's pre-collision psychiatric history (p = 0.03); and (5) severity of initial injuries (p = 0.03). The force of initial impact and the patient's pre-collision psychiatric history were both negatively correlated with agreement in diagnosis. Patient related factors (personality, emotional stress, pre-collision physical, mental health) were considered more important than trauma related factors in the development of chronic, widespread pain.
Conclusion: Future studies of the association between trauma and FM should identify potential cases outside of specialty clinics, and baseline assessments should include some measurement of personality, stress, and pre-collision physical and mental health.