Chronic pain syndromes and their relation to childhood abuse and stressful life events

J Psychosom Res. 2003 Apr;54(4):361-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(02)00399-9.


Objective: Childhood abuse, stressful life events, and depression have been repeatedly reported to correlate with chronic pain, but little is known about the mutual relationships among these variables.

Methods: Forty-three women with chronic pelvic pain (CPP), 40 female patients with chronic low-back pain (CLBP), and a female pain-free control group (n=22) were investigated by means of a semistructured interview assessing childhood sexual and physical abuse as well as stressful life events. Additionally, the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was used. For multivariate analyses, structured equation modeling was applied.

Results: Childhood physical abuse, stressful life events, and depression had a significant impact on the occurrence of chronic pain in general, whereas childhood sexual abuse was correlated with CPP only. Moreover, childhood sexual abuse was related to depression. Both childhood sexual and physical abuse showed a close relationship to an increased occurrence of stressful life events.

Conclusion: There are complex mutual interactions among childhood abuse, stressful life events, depression, and the occurrence of chronic pain. Therefore, clinicians should take into consideration these psychosocial factors while treating chronic pain patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pelvis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Violence