Perception of traumatic onset, compensation status, and physical findings: impact on pain severity, emotional distress, and disability in chronic pain patients

J Behav Med. 1996 Oct;19(5):435-53. doi: 10.1007/BF01857677.


The primary purposes of the present study were to investigate the roles of physical findings, financial compensation, and types of pain onset (i.e., trauma vs. insidious onset) on adaptation by chronic pain patients. Comparisons between patients who were receiving or seeking compensation and those who were not revealed that, despite comparable degrees of physical findings, the compensation status was associated with reports of (a) more severe pain, (b) greater disability, (c) higher levels of emotional distress, and (d) greater life interference. The compensation status of 74% of the patients was correctly classified by combination of pain severity, perceived disability, and life interference. Objective indices of physical findings did not significantly improve classification accuracy. In order to eliminate the possible confound of compensation, analyses of the relationship between the types of onset and chronic pain were conducted only for a subset of patients who were not receiving or actively seeking compensation. The results indicated that the patients who attributed their pain to a specific trauma reported significantly higher levels of emotional distress, life interference, and higher levels of pain severity than did the patients who indicated that their pain had an insidious or spontaneous onset, regardless of the extent of objective physical findings.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chronic Disease
  • Depression / complications
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Discriminant Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / economics
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology
  • Pennsylvania
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Wounds and Injuries / complications
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology