Chronic widespread pain in patients with occupational spinal disorders: Prevalence, psychiatric comorbidity, and association with outcomes

Tom G. Mayer, Benjamin L. Towns, Randy Neblett, Brian R. Theodore, Robert J. Gatchel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Study Design. A prospective study assessing chronic widespread pain (CWP) and psychiatric comorbidities in patients with chronic disabling occupational spinal disorders (CDOSDs). Objective. To assess the prevalence of CWP, demographic characteristics, and associated psychiatric comorbidity among CDOSD patients, as well as determine if CWP is a risk factor for less successful one-year postrehabilitation socioeconomic outcomes. Summary of Background Data. CWP is an essential criterion for diagnosing fibromyalgia. CWP is estimated to affect between 4.1% to 13.5% of the general population and it is associated with higher rates of psychiatric disorders and growing rates of disability. The prevalence of CWP, or its associations as a comorbidity, in patients with CDOSDs are unknown. Methods. The socioeconomic outcomes, demographic characteristics, and psychiatric comorbidity of CDOSD patients with CWP were compared to non-CWP patients within a cohort of consecutive CDOSD patients (n = 2730), treated in an interdisciplinary functional restoration program. CWP was determined according to American College of Rheumatology criteria. Psychiatric comorbidity was assessed with the Structured Clinical Interview for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-fourth Edition at the beginning of the rehabilitation program. Results. In the CDOSD cohort, 32% of the patients (N = 878) met American College of Rheumatology criteria for CWP, relative to 4.1% to 13.5% within the general population. CWP patients (82%) were much more likely than non-CWP patients (16%) to have multisite pain complaints, leading to the finding that CDOSD patients with multisite pain showed a CWP prevalence of 70%. CWP patients were 1.5 times more likely to be female, more likely to have multiple compensable injuries, and had slightly elevated rates of pre- and postinjury Axis I psychopathology. Nevertheless, CWP was not associated with less successful 1-year socioeconomic outcomes. Conclusion. A surprisingly high frequency of CDOSD patients participating in interdisciplinary rehabilitation met criteria for CWP, though the diagnosis was generally unknown to the patient. In this large workers' compensation cohort, CWP was not associated with longer periods of disability, more prerehabilitation surgery or higher pain self-report. With appropriate rehabilitation, CWP patients can have equally successful work return and health utilization outcomes compared to non-CWP patients, despite having significantly higher rates of certain psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1889-1897
Number of pages9
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2008


  • Chronic disabling occupational spinal disorders
  • Chronic widespread pain
  • DSM-IV diagnosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Functional restoration
  • Interdisciplinary rehabilitation
  • Psychopathology
  • Socioeconomic outcomes


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