Lifetime physical and sexual abuse in chronic pain patients: Psychological correlates and treatment outcomes

B. E. Bailey, R. N. Freedenfeld, R. Sanford Kiser, Robert J. Gatchel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study describes a subgroup of diagnostically heterogeneous chronic pain patients, with a lifetime history of physical and/or sexual abuse, who underwent a pain management programme. A battery of psychosocial and pain measures were assessed, as well as 1-year post-treatment socio economic outcomes. Method: The prevalence of a history of abuse was assessed via a semi-structured interview of 162 consecutive patients (112 females and 50 males) presenting for 4-8 weeks of treatment in an interdisciplinary, outpatient rehabilitation programme. Treatment outcome data were gathered immediately, 6 months and 1 year following discharge. The chronic pain patients with a history of abuse were compared to those without a history of abuse on several pre-treatment psychosocial variables - pain severity, psychological distress, DSM-IV Axis I comorbidity and health care utilization. Patient groups were matched on age, race, primary pain diagnosis, time in pain prior to treatment and gender. Results: Results indicated that 61% of patients had a history of lifetime physical and/or sexual abuse. Rates of sexual, and combined sexual and physical, abuse across the lifespan were higher for women than for men. Abused patients had a greater number of psychiatric diagnoses than nonabused patients. Abused patients also reported greater affective distress, less perceived life control, and a greater number of ER visits in the 6 months prior to treatment than their nonabused counterparts. A model consisting of gender (female), a higher number of psychiatric diagnoses, and higher affective distress was found to be a sensitive and relatively accurate predictor of abuse history. Finally, analyses indicated that, despite having greater psychosocial risk factors during the pre-treatment period, chronic pain patients with a history of abuse benefited from treatment and maintained treatment gains to a degree similar to nonabused chronic pain patients. Conclusions: Chronic patients with an abuse history can successfully complete a rehabilitation programme if the programme is designed to treat their psychosocial distress. Moreover, this also carries over to treatment outcome. A history of abuse does not have to negatively impact long-term treatment outcomes in this population of chronic pain patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-342
Number of pages12
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number7
StatePublished - 8 Apr 2003


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