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bibliography * The PainScience Bibliography contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers and others sources, like a specialized blog. This page is about a single scientific paper in the bibliography, Generaal 2015.

Stress, adverse life events, and risk of pain

Generaal E, Vogelzangs N, Macfarlane GJ, Geenen R, Smit JH, de Geus EJ, Penninx BW, Dekker J. Biological stress systems, adverse life events and the onset of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain: a 6-year cohort study. Ann Rheum Dis. 2015 Apr. PubMed #25902791.
Tags: etiology, counter-intuitive, chronic pain, mind, pro, pain problems

PainSci summary of Generaal 2015?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for typical studies with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.

An eyebrow-raiser of a study: it’s a common assumption that stress has biological consequences — like “adrenal fatigue,” say — that drive up the risk of pain later in life, but this study of 2000 Dutch citizens “could not confirm” those biological consequences. Their data affirmed that there’s still a link between having a rough time in life and chronic pain… but this occurs independently of any obvious biological changes. This implies that there is some other mechanism by which stress makes us vulnerable to pain, and the authors suggest that “psychosocial factors play a role in triggering the development of this condition.” In other words, stress may dial up the sensitivity of the brain’s threat-o-meter.

If the study results are reproducible, it’s kind of a big deal. Or the study might have gotten it wrong. 😉

original abstract

OBJECTIVES: Dysregulated biological stress systems and adverse life events, independently and in interaction, have been hypothesised to initiate chronic pain. We examine whether (1) function of biological stress systems, (2) adverse life events, and (3) their combination predict the onset of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain.

METHODS: Subjects (n=2039) of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety, free from chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain at baseline, were identified using the Chronic Pain Grade Questionnaire and followed up for the onset of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain over 6 years. Baseline assessment of biological stress systems comprised function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (1-h cortisol awakening response, evening levels, postdexamethasone levels), the immune system (basal and lipopolysaccharide-stimulated inflammation) and the autonomic nervous system (heart rate, pre-ejection period, SD of the normal-to-normal interval, respiratory sinus arrhythmia). The number of recent adverse life events was assessed at baseline using the List of Threatening Events Questionnaire.

RESULTS: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, immune system and autonomic nervous system functioning was not associated with onset of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain, either by itself or in interaction with adverse life events. Adverse life events did predict onset of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain (HR per event=1.14, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.24, p=0.005).

CONCLUSIONS: This longitudinal study could not confirm that dysregulated biological stress systems increase the risk of developing chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain. Adverse life events were a risk factor for the onset of chronic multisite musculoskeletal pain, suggesting that psychosocial factors play a role in triggering the development of this condition.

related content

These two articles on cite Generaal 2015 as a source:

This page is part of the PainScience BIBLIOGRAPHY, which contains plain language summaries of thousands of scientific papers & others sources. It’s like a highly specialized blog.