New research involving more than 2,000 people residing in two different Israeli towns—one that has been exposed to repeated missile attacks and one that has not—indicates that consistently heightened stress levels may be a causal factor for chronic pain.

The two towns, Sderot and the more peaceful Ofakim, possess similar demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, according to a report published on www.pubmed gov. Residents of both towns were interviewed regarding pain, somatic symptoms, mood, trauma-exposure, and general health status.

The study results show significantly higher levels of trauma-related symptoms and somatic symptoms noted in Sderot compared with Ofakim, the pubmed report noted. Among the results:

• Chronic widespread pain was more common in Sderot than Ofakim
• Women were more likely than men to experience chronic widespread pain in Sderot vs. Ofakim
• Among males, chronic regional pain was more common in Sderot than in Ofakim
• Pain severity in Sderot was significantly higher than in Ofakim

“Similar to previous studies that have suggested that chronic stress is associated with chronic pain, this study demonstrates significantly increased rates of somatic complaints, including pain, fatigue and IBS-like symptoms, among individuals in Sderot compared with Ofakim, as well as significantly higher rates of trauma-related symptoms,” the researchers noted. “Thus, a fibromyalgia-like symptoms cluster was more likely to be found in Sderot compared with Ofakim.”

The study was conducted by researchers from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Institute of Rheumatology and Tel Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel. “A tale of two cities—the effect of low intensity conflict on prevalence and characteristics of musculoskeletal pain and somatic symptoms associated with chronic stress” was published in a November issue of the journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology.

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