The Longitudinal Relationship Between Emotion Regulation and Pain-Related Outcomes: Results From a Large, Online Prospective Study

Rachel V. Aaron, Chung Jung Mun, Lakeya S. McGill, Patrick H. Finan, Claudia M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

People with chronic pain engage in various strategies, such as pain catastrophizing and pain acceptance, to regulate the difficult emotional aspects of living with pain. Engagement in these strategies is known to influence pain severity and pain interference. However, less research has examined the extent to which general emotion regulation, the ability to identify emotions and engage in strategies to alter emotions, relates to pain-related outcomes. The current study, a large (N = 1453) online prospective study of adults with chronic pain, employed theory-driven assessment of emotion regulation to determine the extent to which general difficulties with emotion regulation at baseline relate to pain severity and pain interference at three-month follow-up, above and beyond pain catastrophizing and pain acceptance. We conducted a series of path models, controlling for demographic covariates and baseline pain severity and pain interference. Pain catastrophizing and pain acceptance at baseline significantly predicted pain interference at three-month follow-up. However, when indices of general emotion regulation were entered into the model, the associations between pain catastrophizing and pain interference (B =.009, P =.153) were no longer statistically significant. Alexithymia emerged as a significant predictor of pain severity (B =.012, P =.032) and pain interference (B =.026, P <.001). These findings highlight the value of considering the role of general emotion regulation (particularly identifying and describing emotions), in addition to pain-specific experiences, in understanding risk for poor pain-related outcomes. Perspective In addition to pain catastrophizing and pain acceptance, difficulties regulating emotions in general (particularly elevated alexithymia) relates to pain outcomes three months later. These findings shed light on risk for poor pain outcomes and point to general emotion regulation as a potentially important target of chronic pain intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Pain
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Chronic Pain
  • alexithymia
  • emotion regulation
  • pain acceptance
  • pain catastrophizing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'The Longitudinal Relationship Between Emotion Regulation and Pain-Related Outcomes: Results From a Large, Online Prospective Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this