Personality traits, pain duration and severity, functional impairment, and psychological distress in patients with persistent low back pain

M. BenDebba, W. S. Torgerson, D. M. Long

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The relationships between psychological distress, pain duration, neuroticism, extraversion, pain severity, and functional impairment were examined in a large group of patients with persistent complaints of low back pain. We evaluated patients on a host of relevant variables before treatment and at 1 year and 2 years after treatment which permitted assessment of the stability of the relationships over time. We found that the levels of psychological distress reported by patients were not related to the duration of their complaint. Rather, levels of psychological distress are related to both aspects of the patients personalities, and characteristics of their illness. Patients who scored high on neuroticism reported higher levels of psychological distress than patients who scored low on this trait. Similarly, patients who had more severe pain and were more functionally impaired also reported higher levels of psychological distress due to pain. The relative strengths of these relationships varied with treatment status. Before treatment, psychological distress and neuroticism were strongly related, but after treatment, the relationship was moderate. In contrast, the relationship of psychological distress to pain severity and functional impairment was significantly strengthened after treatment. We attributed this shift in the relative strengths of the relationships to change in the patient perception of their illness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-125
Number of pages11
JournalPain
Volume72
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 13 1997

Keywords

  • Extroversion
  • Functional impairment
  • Neuroticism
  • Pain severity
  • Persistent pain
  • Psychological distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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