Sci Rep. 2023 Oct 21;13(1):18000. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-44874-1.
Despite a link between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and anxiety, the role of anxiety in the pathway to chronic pain is unclear. Potentially, inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) are involved. Objectives were to (1) examine relationships between reported ACEs, anxiety, and chronic pain, and (2) assess associations between ACEs, anxiety, and CRP levels and between CRP and chronic pain. Data from 24,172 adults who participated in the UK Biobank were used to conduct Poisson regressions to assess relationships between ACEs, anxiety, and chronic pain. For participants with CRP data who met the inclusion criteria (n = 2007), similar models were run between ACEs, anxiety, and CRP, and CRP and chronic pain. For objective 1, three statistically significant interactions were found to predict pain: frequency of physical abuse x reported muscular symptoms during anxiety (p = 0.01); frequency in which they felt hated x having discussed anxiety with a professional (p = 0.03), and reported frequency of sexual abuse x difficulties relaxing during anxiety attacks (p = 0.03). For objective 2, frequency of sexual abuse and informing a professional about anxiety significantly interacted to predict elevated CRP. For correlations, the largest was between CRP and the number of times pain was reported over the years (p = 0.01). Finally, ACEs (physical abuse, sexual abuse, and whether taken to a doctor) significantly interacted with CRP to predict pain. This study suggests mechanisms of the impact of ACEs on chronic pain may include inflammation and anxiety, which warrants further study.