The Nature of Trauma Pain and Its Association with Catastrophizing and Sleep

Int J Behav Med. 2018 Dec;25(6):698-705. doi: 10.1007/s12529-018-9751-y.


Background: Nearly 2.8 million people are hospitalized in the USA annually for traumatic injuries, which include orthopedic and internal organ injuries. Early post-injury pain is predictive of poor outcomes, including inability to eventually return to work, and long-term psychological distress. The goal of the present study was to improve our scientific understanding of trauma-related pain by examining (1) the nature and frequency of inpatient trauma pain and (2) the associations between inpatient trauma pain, education, opioid analgesic equivalent use, pain catastrophizing, and sleep quality.

Method: The study included 120 patients hospitalized at a major level I regional trauma center for the care of (1) closed long bone or calcaneus fractures and/or (2) an intraabdominal injury caused by blunt force trauma and requiring surgical repair (i.e., laparotomy). Medical records were reviewed to obtain demographic information and information about opioid use during hospitalization. In addition, participants were administered measures of average pain intensity, pain catastrophizing, and sleep quality.

Results: Education, opioid analgesic equivalents, catastrophizing, and poor sleep quality together accounted for 28% of the variance of average pain intensity over a 24-h period (p < .001), with each variable making a significant independent association.

Conclusion: Two of the factors associated with pain intensity in the study sample-catastrophizing and sleep quality-are modifiable. It is therefore possible that interventions that target these variables in patients who are hospitalized for trauma could potentially result in better long-term outcomes, including a reduced risk for developing chronic pain. Research to evaluate this possibility is warranted.

Keywords: Catastrophizing; Education; Opioid analgesic equivalents; Pain; Sleep quality; Trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catastrophization / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sleep*
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications*
  • Young Adult