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Can Somatic Symptoms Affect Women’s Pain Syndromes?

April 5, 2018
Connecting psychological pain to dysmenorrhea and noncyclic pelvic pain

A PPM Brief

A new paper out of the University of Chicago and NorthShore University by Zuckerman et al, examined the relationship between somatic symptoms and women’s pain syndromes. Defining somatic symptoms as a “robust, transdiagnostic risk factor for pain conditions,” the researchers specifically aimed to correlate somatic symptoms with dysmenorrhea and noncyclic pelvic pain (NCPP), which often co-occur.

Proposing that somatic symptoms “would be elevated in NCPP and distinctly influence the relationship between dysmenorrhea and co-occurring NCPP,” the authors conducted a cross-sectional questionnaire among just over 1,000 nonpregnant reproductive-aged women, as well as a mediation analysis. Among four groups (healthy, dysmenorrhea, NCPP, and NCPP with co-occurring dysmenorrhea), the NCPP+dysmenorrhea group had higher somatic, anxiety, and depression symptom T-scores (respectively 61, 61, 60) compared to the healthy controls (46, 51, 51; p’s < .001) and compared to the dysmenorrhea group (50, 53, 54; p’s < .001).

“Pain and psychological symptoms were significantly correlated across the entire sample,” noted the authors. Results of the mediation analysis further associated somatic symptoms with NCPP+dysmenorrhea (ie, the group experienced increased psychological and somatic symptoms).

The researchers concluded that previous research in this field may have overestimated psychological symptoms in patients with dysmenorrhea as NCPP often exists as a comorbidity with dysmenorrhea. They recommended that future research evaluate “whether somatic sensitivity is a modifiable risk factor for NCPP.”


Last updated on: April 6, 2018
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