Is childhood abuse a risk factor for chronic pain in adulthood?

Karen G. Raphael, Helen K. Chandler, Donald S. Ciccone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Childhood sexual and physical abuse often are viewed as important factors in the development and persistence of chronic pain syndromes in adulthood. Nevertheless, earlier reviews on this issue have reached conflicting conclusions regarding the veracity of the relationship. In this critical review of existing research on childhood abuse and pain in adulthood, surprisingly mixed evidence is found, with significant effects found most consistently in very large crosssectional studies that rely on self-reported abuse status. The few prospective studies that are available do not support the relationship. When examining the literature from the perspective of epidemiological standards for inferring causation, the authors conclude that the evidence does not demonstrate a causal relationship. It appears that any overall relationship between childhood abuse and pain in adulthood probably is modest in magnitude, if it exists at all. Clinical implications and suggestions for future research directions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-110
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Pain and Headache Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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