Chronic pain in traumatized refugees

Avdeling for forskning og undervisning, Psykiatrisk divisjon, Ullevål universitetssykehus 0407 Oslo.
Tidsskrift for den Norske laegeforening 03/2006; 126(5):608-10.
Source: PubMed


The purpose of this article is to describe the prevalence of chronic pain in traumatized refugees. Further, we sought to identify the possible associations between pain and psychosocial factors, reported traumatic events, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Seventy-two patients (40%) were followed up 3 to 8 years after contact with a psychiatric outpatient clinic at the Psychosocial Centre for Refugees in the University of Oslo. Of the men, 83 % had been imprisoned before flight, of the women, 44%. In this study data was collected at onset of treatment and at follow up by a semi-structured interview. We included data on pain, previously experienced traumatic events, socio-demographic information, social support and psychiatric symptoms using the Hopkins symptom check list-25, the symptom scale of Harvard trauma questionnaire, and a screening for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder according to the DSM-IV. Additionally, general assessment of functioning was estimated. Chronic pain was defined as suffering continuously from serious pain over the last 6 months.
Forty-seven (65%) patients reported they had problems with chronic pain; out of these, 34 (72%) reported they experienced severe pain. No significant association was found between type or number of traumatic event and chronic pain. Significant association was found between severe chronic pain, posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression scores, general assessment of functioning, and medium/low social support. A significant association was found between severe chronic pain and the frequency of consultations with a general practitioner. Inquiry about and treatment for chronic severe pain should be included in the rehabilitation of traumatized refugees.

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    • "Further, pain has been found to increase the level of psychological distress, especially depression and anxiety symptoms (Tsang et al. 2008). We also found that chronic pain at clinical levels was comorbid with PTSD, and the comorbidity was high (57%) as compared with a study of Bosnian patients with PTSD (Avdibegovic et al. 2010), but lower than in a clinical sample of refugees with different national origins in Norway (Dahl et al. 2006) and Iraqi Gulf veterans refugees in USA (Jamil et al. 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Background Traumatized refugees often report significant levels of chronic pain in addition to posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms, and more information is needed to understand pain in refugees exposed to traumatic events. This study aimed to assess the frequency of chronic pain among refugee psychiatric outpatients, and to compare outpatients with and without chronic pain on trauma exposure, psychiatric morbidity, and psychiatric symptom severity. Methods We conducted a cross-sectional study of sixty-one psychiatric outpatients with a refugee background using structured clinical diagnostic interviews to assess for traumatic events [Life Events Checklist (LEC)], PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and complex PTSD [Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV PTSD Module (SCID-PTSD) and Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress (SIDES)], chronic pain (SIDES Scale VI) and psychiatric symptoms [M.I.N.I. International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.)]. Self-report measures were used to assess symptoms of postraumatic stress [Impact of Event Scale-revised (IES-R)], depression and anxiety [Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-25)] and several markers of acculturation in Norway. Results Of the 61 outpatients included, all but one reported at least one chronic pain location, with a mean of 4.6 locations per patient. Chronic pain at clinical levels was present in 66% of the whole sample of outpatients, and in 88% of the outpatients with current PTSD diagnosis. The most prevalent chronic pain locations were head (80%), chest (74%), arms/legs (66%) and back (62%). Women had significantly more chronic pain locations than men. Comorbid PTSD and chronic pain were found in 57% of the outpatients. Significant differences were found between outpatients with and without chronic pain on posttraumatic stress, psychological distress, and DESNOS severity. Conclusions Chronic pains are common in multi-traumatized refugees in outpatient clinics in Norway, and are positively related to symptomatology and severity of psychiatric morbidity. The presence of chronic pain, as well as comorbid chronic pain and PTSD, in psychiatric outpatients with a refugee background call for an integrated assessment and treatment for both conditions.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2015
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    Preview · Article · Sep 2007 · Advances in Psychiatric Treatment
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this project was to use the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to develop an interdisciplinary instrument consisting of a Core Set, a number of codes selected from ICF, to describe the overall health condition of traumatised refugees. We intended to test 1) whether this tool could prove suitable for an overall description of the functional abilities of traumatised refugees before, during and after the intervention, and 2) whether the Core Set could be used to trace a significant change in the functional abilities of the traumatised refugees by comparing measurements before and after the intervention. In 2007, eight rehabilitation centres for traumatised refugees in Denmark agreed on a joint project to develop a tool for interdisciplinary documentation and monitoring, including physical, mental and social aspects of the person's health condition. ICF, developed and approved by WHO in 2001, was found suitable because it offers a common and standardised language and a corresponding frame of reference to describe health and associated conditions in terms of functioning rather than symptoms and diagnosis. Traumatised refugees are in most cases severely affected mentally by the traumas they have been subjected to, physically by injuries suffered during torture and war, psycho-somatically with pain, and socially by cultural uprooting, as well as by social difficulties in the exile community. The rehabilitation perspective thus seems to be more meaningful than the traditional treatment perspective because it takes into account the very complex situation of this group. The aim of the project was to find out whether any functional changes could be monitored using the instrument. The aim was neither to study nor to describe the effect of rehabilitation approaches, such as conditions related to traumatised refugees' networks or environments that might affect the refugees' living conditions. It was also not the intention to discuss the cause of the potential changes of the functional abilities. The project selected a Comprehensive Core Set of 106 codes among 1,464 possible codes (1) used by an interdisciplinary group of international and national experts in rehabilitation of traumatised refugees. The Comprehensive Core Set was furthermore reduced to a Brief Core Set of 32 codes by the interdisciplinary team (key persons) at the centres included in the project. From each centre six clients were randomly selected from those who fulfilled the inclusion criteria. All were scored within a four week period after the start, before any intervention was initiated, and up to a month after the first scoring. The results from this project led us to the conclusion that it is possible to develop an instrument based on the ICF classification. The instrument is useful for a general description of the total health condition (physical and mental functional ability as well as the environmental impact) of traumatized refugees. The tool helps describe changes in the functional abilities used in connection with the preparation of the plan of action. It can also be used to describe the refugees included in the study and their general condition. The ICF Core Set for traumatised refugees has not yet been validated, but the results of the project provide a basis for further development.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2010 · Torture: quarterly journal on rehabilitation of torture victims and prevention of torture
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