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Connection Between Chronic Pain & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

guy in painA recent study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, has provided more evidence for researchers’ long-held beliefs that there is a connection between post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain syndrome. The belief is that stress, especially stress experienced in childhood, may influence the likelihood of a person developing problems with chronic pain in later life. The new study explores the connection between sensitivity to pain as an adult on top of a stressful childhood, and shows that this second experiencing of stress can further increase that sensitivity to pain. This new research, which has been carried out by the University of California in San Fransisco, may help to explore new ways of treating chronic pain.

The research also highlights concerns that chronic pain syndromes in general could be a complication arising from post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. This area of research is very difficult to study, as those suffering from PTSD have often undergone physical trauma of some kind already. The other concern highlighted was that studies do not normally take into account the early life stress experienced by participants.

Dr. John Levine, of the University of California, San Fransisco, believes that new treatment methods could be developed based on this new information. He said, “While it has been recognised for some time that early life events can shift homeostatic balance, predisposing adults to the development of chronic pain, that this could be mediated by a peripheral mechanism, involving the interaction between immune and neuroendocrine stress axes suggests novel approaches to detecting individuals at risk as well as to treatment of chronic pain.”

Chronic pain syndrome is notoriously challenging to health care providers, due to its complex nature and poor response to medication. It is categorised by constant pain of any kind that is endured for three months or more, and is normally controlled by opiates although they are often not sufficiently effective enough to relieve all of the symptoms. There is evidence to suggest that pain control works best when it is started early as it prevents the condition from worsening, but this study also highlights the clear link between stress and the severity of the condition.

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