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Exercise Performance and Chronic Pain in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Role of Pain Catastrophizing

Authors

  • Jo Nijs PhD,

    1. Department of Human Physiology, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels;
    2. Division of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy, Department of Health Care Sciences, University College Antwerp, Brussels, Belgium;
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  • Karen Van de Putte MSc,

    1. Department of Human Physiology, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels;
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  • Fred Louckx PhD,

    1. Medical Sociology, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels
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  • Steven Truijen PhD,

    1. Division of Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy, Department of Health Care Sciences, University College Antwerp, Brussels, Belgium;
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  • Kenny De Meirleir PhD

    1. Department of Human Physiology, Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy, Vrije Universiteit, Brussels;
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  • Original Research Article

Jo Nijs, PhD, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Sport KRO-1, Laarbeeklaan 101, B-1090 Brussels, Belgium. Tel: 32-2477-4604, Fax: 32-2477-4607; E-mail: jo.nijs@vub.ac.be.

ABSTRACT

Objectives.  This study aimed to examine the associations between bodily pain, pain catastrophizing, depression, activity limitations/participation restrictions, employment status, and exercise performance in female patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) who experience widespread pain.

Design.  Cross-sectional observational study.

Setting.  A university-based clinic.

Patients.  Thirty-six female CFS patients who experienced widespread pain.

Outcome Measures.  Patients filled in the Medical Outcomes Short-Form 36 Health Status Survey, the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Activities and Participation Questionnaire, the Beck Depression Inventory, and the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, and underwent a maximal exercise stress test with continuous monitoring of electrocardiographic and ventilatory parameters.

Results.  Pain catastrophizing was related to bodily pain (r = −0.70), depression (r = 0.55), activity limitations/participation restrictions (r = 0.68), various aspects of quality of life (r varied between −0.51 and −0.64), and exercise capacity (r varied between −0.41 and −0.61). Based on hierarchical multiple regression analysis, pain catastrophizing accounted for 41% of the variance in bodily pain in female CFS patients who experience chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain. Among the three subscale scores of the Pain Catastrophizing Scale, helplessness and rumination rather than magnification were strongly related to bodily pain. Neither pain catastrophizing nor depression was related to employment status.

Conclusions.  These data provide evidence favoring a significant association between pain catastrophizing, bodily pain, exercise performance, and self-reported disability in female patients with CFS who experience widespread pain. Further prospective longitudinal studying of these variables is required.

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