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U of Maine research study recruiting women with PTSD and/or FM, RA, or tendonitis

  [ 7 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ]
By University of Maine • • March 24, 2009

U Maine News, Mar 24 - A University of Maine (Orono) graduate student studying the relationship between post traumatic stress disorder and chronic musculoskeletal pain (fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, or tendonitis) is looking for women who suffer from one or both of these afflictions to participate in research that could lead to better treatment.

Anna Cassel, a clinical psychology graduate student from Boston, is conducting the research through the summer as part of her doctoral dissertation. She and her research adviser, psychology professor Sandra Sigmon, hope to uncover psychological and biological corollaries between chronic musculosketal pain - widespread pain of the muscles and skeleton - and post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).

The research could improve diagnosis and treatment, and also identify characteristics that predispose women to the two conditions.

"There are very high rates of both PTSD and fibromyalgia within female populations," says Cassel. "Both diagnoses tend to co-occur fairly frequently. Having a diagnosis of both PTSD and chronic pain tends to be associated with elevated levels of distress, greater reports of pain sensations, interference in daily activities, and high rates of disability.

"Findings from this study will not only help identify why they co-occur so frequently, but it also might provide some insight as to what some vulnerabilities are for each condition," Cassel says.

"If we are able to find this out, then it would have important implications for both the treatment and prevention of each diagnosis."

Cassel hopes to get about 60 women to participate. Participants will:
• Complete a set of prescreening questions,
• Make a 2- to 2-½-hour laboratory visit
• And complete a packet of questionnaires, says Cassel.

Women will receive up to $20 upon completing the study, and may also be eligible to participate in a free treatment study.

Contact Info
Cassel can be reached
• By e-mail at
• Or by calling (207) 581-2824.

Statistics show that more women than men suffer from both illnesses, and no one, so far as Cassel knows, has undertaken a study to research why PTSD and chronic pain might co-occur in women so frequently. Cassel says that 17 percent of women experience chronic pain, and about two in 100 are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Incidents of chronic pain also rise significantly in women over the age of 50.

Studies also show that most people experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, and about 20 percent of the female population will develop PSTD.

"Both diagnoses tend to co-occur fairly frequently, and I am looking at a model that has been proposed for why this might be true," Cassel says.

Again, participants do not have to have both diagnoses to participate.

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