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Pain. 2013 Jan;154(1):147-53. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2012.10.004. Epub 2012 Oct 16.

Relationship status and quality moderate daily pain-related changes in physical disability, affect, and cognitions in women with chronic pain.

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Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1104, USA.


The objectives of this study were to examine whether (1) daily pain-related changes in physical functioning differed between happily partnered, unhappily partnered, and unpartnered female chronic pain patients, and (2) affect and pain cognitions mediated the partner status effect on pain-related changes in physical functioning. Two hundred fifty-one women with chronic pain due to osteoarthritis and/or fibromyalgia completed 30 daily electronic diaries assessing pain, affect, pain-related cognitions, and physical functioning. Patients living with a romantic partner also completed a modified version of the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Scale to assess relationship satisfaction. Multilevel modeling revealed that patients in satisfying unions showed more adaptive daily pain-related changes in physical functioning, pain coping difficulty, and catastrophizing compared to those in unsatisfying unions and those who were unpartnered. Both partnered groups also showed more adaptive pain-related changes in positive affect compared to the unpartnered group. The impact of relationship status on pain-related changes in physical functioning was partly mediated by the pain cognitions catastrophizing and coping difficulty. These results indicate that happily partnered pain patients show less pain-related physical disability and more adaptive affective and cognitive responses to daily pain changes than do unhappily partnered and unpartnered patients. Living in a happy union may bolster the capacity of patients to sustain a sense of pain coping efficacy during pain episodes, which in turn, minimizes pain-related physical activity limitations.

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