Research Links Traffic Accidents With Increased Risk of Chronic Pain

A recently published study in Arthritis Care & Research showed that individuals with poorer health or psychological issues may be prone to developing chronic widespread pain after a traumatic event.

Gareth T. Jones, PhD, of the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine and Dentistry, United Kingdom, and colleagues also found that the onset of chronic pain was more often reported after traffic accidents than other physically traumatic events, according to a press release.

“We believe there are persons — defined by prior physical and psychological health — who in the event of a traumatic trigger are vulnerable to developing chronic widespread pain,” Jones stated in the release. “Under this hypothesis, the precise nature of the traumatic event may be immaterial.”

To examine the relationship between different physically traumatic events and the onset of chronic widespread pain, Jones and colleagues followed 2,069 individuals who participated in the population-based prospective cohort Epidemiology of Functional Disorders study. Participants provided data on their musculoskeletal pain and associated psychological distress at three time points during a 4-year period. They were also asked about any recent experience with six physically traumatic events: traffic accident, workplace injury, surgery, fracture, hospitalization and childbirth.

According to the release, 12% of the 241 individuals who completed the study reported a new onset of chronic widespread pain. Of these, investigators found that more than one-third were more likely to report at least one traumatic event during the study period compared with other individuals. After Jones and colleagues adjusted for age, sex, general practice and baseline pain status, they found that individuals who reported a traffic accident had an 84% increased likelihood of new onset chronic widespread pain. However, they found no association between a new onset chronic widespread pain and hospitalization, surgery or giving birth.

“Further research should focus on the unique aspects of an auto accident and the individual’s reaction to this particular trauma,” Jones stated in the release.

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