Adverse childhood experiences and burn pain: A review of biopsychosocial mechanisms that may influence healing

Emily H. Werthman, Luana Colloca, Lynn M. Oswald

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) affect over half of the adults in the United States and are known to contribute to the development of a wide variety of negative health and behavioral outcomes. The consequences of ACE exposure have been studied in patient populations that include individuals with gynecologic, orthopedic, metabolic, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal conditions among others. Findings indicate that ACEs not only increase risks for chronic pain but also influence emotional responses to pain in many of these individuals. A growing body of research suggests that these effects may be the result of long-lasting changes induced by ACEs in neurobiological systems during early development. However, one area that is still largely unexplored concerns the effects of ACEs on burn patients, who account for almost 450,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually. Patients with severe burns frequently suffer from persistent pain that affects their well-being long after the acute injury, but considerable variability has been observed in the experience of pain across individuals. A literature search was conducted in CINAHL and PubMed to evaluate the possibility that previously documented ACE-induced changes in biological, psychological, and social processes might contribute to these differences. Findings suggest that better understanding of the role that ACEs play in burn outcomes could lead to improved treatment strategies, but further empirical research is needed to identify the predictors and mechanisms that dictate individual differences in pain outcomes in patients with ACE exposure and to clarify the role that ACE-related alterations play in early healing and recovery from burn injuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1013
JournalPain Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 6 2022


  • Coping
  • Early life
  • Expectancies
  • Stress
  • Symptom management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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