Childhood trauma influences adult pain. One of the more compelling narratives emerging in health care has to do with the influence that childhood developmental trauma can have on health, including pain. In his chapter on the impact of early life trauma on health and disease, Lanius states:12
“Women were 50% more likely than men to have experienced 5 or more categories of adverse childhood experiences. We believe that here is a key to what in mainstream epidemiology appears as women’s natural proneness to ill-defined health problems like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic non-malignant pain syndromes. In light of our findings, we now see these as medical constructs, artifacts resulting from medical blindness to social realities and ignorance of the impact of gender.”
Lanius12 suggests that adverse childhood experiences13 (trauma such as abuse and sexual assault) can lead to long-term changes within the nervous system, including areas of pain processing. My coauthor and I describe these changes here in terms of nervous system sensitization or dysregulation, and we believe that these changes lead to a bias toward hyperactivation of emotional pain circuits, which leads to the emotionally laden pain behaviors that often seem out of proportion to tissue pathology.