The role of compensation in chronic pain: Analysis using a new method of scoring the McGill pain questionnaire
Jeans, Mary Ellen
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Patients who receive worker's compensation or are awaiting litigation after an accident have long been regarded as neurotics or malingerers who are exaggerating their pain for financial gain. However, there is a growing body of evidence that patients who receive worker's compensation are no different from patients who do not. In particular, a recent study found no differences between compensation and non-compensation patients based on pain scores obtained with the McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ). Since the MPQ is usually scored by using rank values rather than more complex scale values, the negative finding might be attributable to the loss of information by using rank values. Consequently, a simple technique was developed to convert rank values to weighted-rank values which are equivalent to scale values. A study of 145 patients suffering low-back and musculoskeletal pain revealed that compensation and non-compensation patients had virtually identical pain scores and pain descriptor patterns. They were also similar on the MMPI pain triad (depression, hysteria, hypochondriasis) and on several other personal variables that were examined. The only differences were significantly lower affective or evaluative MPQ scores and fewer visits to health professionals by compensation patients compared to non-compensation patients. These results suggest that the financial security provided by compensation decreases anxiety, which is reflected in the lower affective or evaluative ratings but not the sensory or total MPQ scores. Compensation patients, contrary to traditional opinion, appear not to differ from people who do not receive compensation. Accidents which produce injury and pain should be considered as potentially psychologically traumatic as well as conducive to the development of subtle physiological changes such as trigger points. Patients on compensation or awaiting litigation deserve the same concern and compassion as all other patients who suffer chronic pain.