Chronic Pain in Women Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Judith Wuest, Marilyn Merritt-Gray, Marilyn Ford-Gilboe, Barbara Lent, Colleen Varcoe, Jacquelyn C. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


In this descriptive study of chronic pain in a community sample of 292 women who had separated from their abusive partners on average 20 months previously, more than one-third experienced high disability pain as measured by Von Korff's Chronic Pain Grade. Beyond the usual pain locations associated with abuse, 43.2% reported swollen/painful joints. More interference in daily life was attributed to joint pain than to back, head, stomach, pelvic or bowel pain. Women with high disability pain were more likely to have experienced child abuse, adult sexual assault, more severe spousal abuse, lifetime abuse-related injuries, symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, lifetime suicide attempts, difficulty sleeping, and unemployment. High disability pain also was associated with visits to a family doctor and psychiatrist and use of medication in more than prescribed dosages. Less than 25% of women with high disability pain were taking opioids, or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Interestingly, high disability pain was not related to smoking, use of street drugs, potential for alcohol dependence, age, income, or education. The findings add to knowledge of severity and patterns of chronic pain in abused women and support the need for further multivariate analysis of the relationships among abuse experiences, mental health, and chronic pain severity to better inform decisions regarding diagnosis and treatment. Perspective: Understanding patterns of chronic pain in abuse survivors and their associations with abuse history, mental health symptoms, health service use, and medication is important for clinical assessment and intervention. Chronic pain persisted long after leaving abusive partners and extended beyond usual locations (back, headache, pelvic, gastrointestinal) to include swollen/painful joints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1057
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic pain
  • abuse
  • chronic pain grade
  • intimate partner violence
  • women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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