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Somatic Awareness and Tender Points in a Community Sample

Published:August 30, 2016DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2016.08.009

      Highlights

      • Somatic awareness is an emerging concept in pain research.
      • Somatic awareness is associated with higher tender point count.
      • Somatic awareness mediates the relationship between distress and tender point count.

      Abstract

      Somatic awareness (SA) refers to heightened sensitivity to a variety of physical sensations and symptoms. Few attempts have been made to dissociate the relationship of SA and affective symptoms with pain outcomes. We used a validated measure of mood and anxiety symptoms that includes questions related to SA to predict the number of tender points found on physical examination in a large cross-sectional community sample (the Midlife in the United States [MIDUS] Biomarker study). General distress, positive affect, and SA, which were all significantly associated with tender point number in bivariate analyses, were used as predictors of the number of tender points in a multivariate negative binomial regression model. In this model a greater number of tender points was associated with higher levels of SA (P = .02) but not general distress (P = .13) or positive affect (P = .50). Follow-up mediation analyses indicated that the relationship between general distress and tender points was partially mediated by levels of SA. Our primary finding was that SA is strongly related to the number of tender points in a community sample. Mechanisms linking SA to the spatial distribution of pain sensitivity should be investigated further.

      Perspective

      This article presents an analysis of 3 overlapping psychological constructs and their relationship to widespread pain sensitivity on palpation. The findings suggest that SA is most strongly related to the spatial distribution of pain sensitivity and that further assessing it may improve our understanding of the relationship between psychological factors and pain.

      Key words

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