Personality, Gender, and Chronic Back Pain

Matthew Spieler, Fordham University


Research shows that the most common medical treatments for chronic back pain fail to provide lasting and meaningful relief to patients. Although back pain is widely attributed to structural abnormalities of the spine, research has for decades failed to find evidence for such a causal relationship. In addition, some research has found that women are more likely than men to suffer from chronic back pain. Increasingly, a competing paradigm in which back pain is attributed to mind-body processes has gained traction. The current study used a multivariate analysis of variance to investigate a core tenet of the theory advanced by the late John Sarno that posited that chronic back pain results from psychobiological processes that arise out of personality traits. Specifically, the current study investigated whether people with chronic back pain exhibit higher levels of agreeableness, conscientiousness, perfectionism, and anger-suppression than people who do not suffer from such pain; whether females exhibit higher levels of those traits than males; and whether an interaction effect was evident between gender and chronic back pain. The result of the overall model was not significant. Hypotheses that might explain these findings are presented. Finally, limitations of the current study and directions for future research are explored.

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Recommended Citation

Spieler, Matthew, "Personality, Gender, and Chronic Back Pain" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10816518.