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 Academic Article uri icon


  • Although both acute and chronic stress leads to pain, the precise characteristics of this association have not been well defined. Sderot is an Israeli town exposed to repeated missile attacks. Ofakim, a town of similar demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, had not been targeted, as of the period of our study. We examined the occurrence and characteristics of pain and related somatic symptoms in Sderot and Ofakim. One thousand and twenty-four individuals in Sderot and 1006 in Ofakim were interviewed regarding pain, somatic symptoms, mood, trauma-exposure, and general health status. Significantly higher levels of trauma-related symptoms and somatic symptoms were noted in Sderot compared with Ofakim (p<0.001). Chronic widespread pain (CWP) was more common in Sderot (11.1%) than Ofakim (8.3%; OR 1.37, p=0.038). Women were more likely (13.9% vs. 9.3%; OR 1.45, p=0.06) than men (8.9% vs. 7.3%, OR 1.24, p=0.37) to experience CWP in Sderot vs. Ofakim. Amongst males, chronic regional pain (CRP) was more common in Sderot (19.2%) than in Ofakim (14.2%; p=0.036). Pain severity in Sderot was significantly higher than in Ofakim (p<0.001). 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. Thus, a fibromyalgia-like symptoms cluster was more likely to be found in Sderot compared with Ofakim. Widespread pain was reported as being significantly more frequent by inhabitants of Sderot compared with Ofakim. These results have relevance to both the general population and for populations enduring chronic stress.

publication date

  • November 1, 2010