Number and Type of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Domains Are Associated With Patient-Reported Outcomes in Patients With Chronic Pain

Published:January 04, 2018DOI:


      • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was associated with chronic pain outcomes.
      • Even 1 PTSD symptom was associated with poorer pain-related outcomes overall.
      • The PTSD symptom of numbness or detachment was particularly important.
      • Subsyndromal PTSD and numbness or detachment are important in chronic pain.


      Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) commonly accompanies complex chronic pain, yet PTSD is often overlooked in chronic pain management. Using the 4-item Primary Care (PC)-PTSD screening tool, we evaluated the relationship between the number and type of PC-PTSD symptoms endorsed and a set of patient-reported outcomes, including: pain intensity and interference, function, mood, quality of life, and substance abuse risk in a consecutive sample of patients with chronic pain (n = 4,402). Patients completed PainTracker, a Web-based patient-reported outcome tool that provides a multidimensional evaluation of chronic pain, as part of their intake evaluation at a specialty pain clinic in a community setting. Twenty-seven percent of the sample met PC-PTSD screening criteria for PTSD by endorsing 3 of the 4 symptom domains. Significant ordinal trends were observed between increasing number of PTSD symptoms and all outcomes evaluated. The occurrence of even 1 PTSD symptom was associated with overall poorer outcomes, suggesting that subsyndromal PTSD is clinically significant in the context of chronic pain. Among the 4 PTSD domains assessed, “numbness/detachment” was most strongly associated with negative pain outcomes in relative weight analysis. Results from this cross-sectional study suggest that a range of pain-related outcomes may be significantly related to comorbid PTSD.


      We present evidence that PTSD symptoms are significantly related to a broad set of pain-related patient-reported outcomes. These findings highlight the need to evaluate for PTSD symptoms in patients with chronic pain, especially feelings of numbness or detachment from others, to improve understanding and management of chronic pain.

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