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PTSD and Accident Related Pain

This study compared three groups of subjects: people with accident-related pain and high Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms; people with few symptoms of PTSD whose pain was also accident-related; and people with chronic pain who had no PTSD symptoms and whose pain was not accident-related. The researchers investigated all three groups for self reports of pain, affective disturbance, and disability.

The study reports that patients with Accident/High PTSD had more self-reported pain and higher levels of affective disturbance. "Both accident groups tended to report greater disability compared to patients whose pain was not accident-related. These finding suggest that PTSD symptoms in chronic pain patients are associated with increased pain and affective distress. Accident related pain, even without the presence of PTSD symptoms, appears to be associated with greater disability."

The authors suggest that screening for and treatment of PTSD may be helpful in relieving pain and getting the patient back to a functional level of health. "A major and practical implication of this study concerns the potential of interventions designed to reduce PTSD symptoms to impact affective disturbance, pain and disability among pain patients undergoing rehabilitation. Behavioral treatment approaches such as cognitive-behavior therapy, systematic desensitization and relaxation training are often employed in the treatment of chronic pain and have also been efficacious in reducing symptoms of PTSD."

Geisser ME, Roth RS, Bachman JE, Eckert TA. The relationship between symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and pain, affective disturbance and disability among patients with accident and non-accident related pain. Pain 1996;66:207-214.