OBJECTIVES: to investigate the possibility of a history of abuse in women complaining of chronic pain who seek care in a unit specialized in treating pain at the Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Somatization was one of the main issues that made it possible to establish a link between chronic pain and abuse. METHODS: a case study was carried out using life history interviews with 11 patients, emphasizing histories of abuse and chronic pain. RESULTS: it was noticed that these patients show a great propensity to seek physical causes for their pains and that the difficulty in finding any such cause leads them through the health services from one doctor to another. All patients interviewed reported having never before spoken about their story of violence to any health care practitioner, and, when provided with the opportunity, these women were able to associate their pain not only to physical events, but also to emotional distress. The great majority of these patients sought refuge in religion as an alternative to the healing of their pain. CONCLUSIONS: the study suggests the need for greater awareness of this connection between a history of abuse and chronic pain on the part of health care services and consequent investment in the education of the health care professionals to enable them to provide better care for these patients.
Violence; Pain; Somatoform disorders