Wiley Logo People with poorer health or psychological issues are believed to develop chronic widespread pain after a traumatic event. A latest study suggests that the onset of chronic pain is high after a traffic accident than from other physically traumatic triggers. Chronic widespread pain may be defined as the presence of pain above and below the waist, or on both the left and right sides of the body, for three months or longer.

In order to analyze the relationship between different physically traumatic events and the onset of chronic widespread pain, authors followed 2069 participants from the Epidemiology of Functional Disorders (EPIFUND) study. Participants were made to provide data on musculoskeletal pain and associated psychological distress at three time points for a period of four years. They were also asked about their recent experience with six physically traumatic events such as traffic accident, workplace injury, surgery, fracture, hospitalization and childbirth.

“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,” explained Gareth Jones, PhD, of the University of Aberdeen School of Medicine and Dentistry, U.K., and lead author of the current study. “Under this hypothesis, the precise nature of the traumatic event may even be immaterial.”

Among the total study subjects, 241 forming 12 percent reportedly developed chronic widespread pain. More than one-third of these subjects were possibly more likely to face at least one traumatic event during the study period than other individuals. Several factors such as age, sex, general practice and baseline pain status were taken into consideration throughout the study. It then appeared that individuals who underwent a traffic accident experienced an 84 percent raised likelihood of new onset chronic widespread pain.

Scientists did not find any relation among individuals who were hospitalized, subjected to surgery or in women who gave birth. Additional investigations will be carried out to analyze the unique aspects of an auto accident and the individual’s reaction to this particular trauma that causes the increased risk of chronic widespread pain onset.

The study is published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.