Separation from Abusive Partners Results in Long-term Chronic Pain for Women

by Tanya Thomas on Nov 21 2008 9:33 AM

High-disability chronic pain after almost two years of separation, Canadian researchers have opined, may plague women who have parted ways with an abusive partner.

During the study, the authors studied 292 abused women who had been separated for at least 20 months.

They sought to describe patterns of chronic pain severity, define the relationship between chronic pain severity and disability, and document the pattern of use of select pain medications.

The research team found that 35 percent of the women who survived intimate partner violence ie IPV showed high disability chronic pain and they experienced pain, on average, at three or more sites.

The authors noted that chronic stress caused by IPV may inhibit how the body naturally adapts to stress and causes imbalances in cortisol levels.

Also, proinflammatory cytokines may lead to an increased autoimmune/inflammatory response and eventually cause chronic pain.

Chronic pain also can be exacerbated by post-traumatic stress syndrome and elevated anxiety that interferes with cognitive skills for managing pain.

The study also found that more than half of the women studied were unemployed, suggesting that chronic pain hampers the ability to maintain employment regardless of age or level of education.

It also showed that less than 25 percent of women with high-disability pain were taking opioids and, despite the prevalence of high-disability pain in this sample, opioid use in this group was the same as women in the general population.

The authors said that these findings combined with high rates of unemployment and PTSD "raise questions about how well chronic pain is being managed" among victims of IPV.