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Chronic pain after car crash

Arthritis Care & Research,
March 2011

Chronic pain after car crash

People appear to be more likely to develop chronic widespread pain after suffering injuries in a traffic crash than after other physically traumatic events.

Chronic widespread pain is 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. Medical literature suggests that this type of pain increases with age, is more common in women than men, and is a primary characteristic of fibromyalgia - one of the most common reasons for rheumatology consultations worldwide.

To examine the relationship between different physically traumatic events and the onset of chronic widespread pain, researchers looked at 2,069 people who provided information about musculoskeletal pain and associated psychological distress at three time points over a four-year period in Scotland. The participants were also asked if they had recently experienced any of six physically traumatic events: traffic crash, workplace injury, surgery, fracture, hospitalisation or childbirth. Of those who participated in the study through follow-up, 241 reported new onset of chronic widespread pain, with more than one-third of these subjects more likely than other participants to report at least one physically traumatic event during the study period.

After the researchers adjusted for a number of factors like age, sex, and baseline pain status, they found that people who reported being in a traffic crash had an 84 percent increased risk of developing new onset chronic widespread pain.

There was no link between new onset of chronic pain and hospitalisation, surgery or childbirth, the researchers noted.

However, further research is needed to focus on 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.

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