A twin study of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and chronic widespread pain

Previous studies of the association between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic widespread pain (CWP) or fibromyalgia have not examined the role of familial or genetic factors. The goals of this study were to determine if symptoms of PTSD are related to CWP in a genetically informative community-based sample of twin pairs, and if so, to ascertain if the association is due to familial or genetic factors. Data were obtained from the University of Washington Twin Registry, which contains 1042 monozygotic and 828 dizygotic twin pairs. To assess the symptoms of PTSD, we used questions from the Impact of Events Scale (IES). IES scores were partitioned into terciles. CWP was defined as pain located in 3 body regions lasting at least 1 week during the past 3 months. Random-effects regression models, adjusted for demographic features and depression, examined the relationship between IES and CWP. IES scores were strongly associated with CWP (P < 0.0001). Compared to those in the lowest IES tercile, twins in the highest tercile were 3.5 times more likely to report CWP. Although IES scores were associated with CWP more strongly among dizygotic than among monozygotic twins, this difference was not significant. Our findings suggest that PTSD symptoms, as measured by IES, are strongly linked to CWP, but this association is not explained by a common familial or genetic vulnerability to both conditions. Future research is needed to understand the temporal association of PTSD and CWP, as well as the physiological underpinnings of this relationship.

Arguelles LM, Afari N, Buchwald DS, Clauw DJ, Furner S, Goldberg J. A twin study of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and chronic widespread pain. Pain. 2006 Sep;124(1-2):150-7. PMC2957179.