Domestic abuse is a global public health issue. The association between the development of central sensitivity syndromes (CSS) and previous exposure to domestic abuse has been poorly understood particularly within European populations.
A retrospective cohort study using the ‘The Health Improvement Network,’ (UK primary care medical records) between 1 January 1995- 31 December 2018. 22,604 adult women exposed to domestic abuse were age matched to 44,671 unexposed women. Average age at cohort entry was 36 years and median follow up was 2.5 years. The outcomes of interest were the development of a variety of syndromes which demonstrate central nervous system sensitisation. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and temporomandibular joint disorder outcomes have been reported previously. Outcomes were adjusted for the presence of mental ill health.
During the study period, women exposed to domestic abuse experienced an increased risk of developing chronic lower back pain (adjusted incidence rate ratio (aIRR) 2.28; 95% CI 1.85-2.80), chronic headaches (aIRR 3.15; 95% CI 1.07-9.23), irritable bowel syndrome (aIRR 1.41; 95% CI 1.25-1.60) and restless legs syndrome (aIRR 1.89; 95% CI 1.44-2.48). However, no positive association was seen with the development of interstitial cystitis (aIRR 0.52; 95% CI 0.14-1.93), vulvodynia (aIRR 0.42; 95% CI 0.14-1.25) and myofascial pain syndrome (aIRR 1.01; 95% CI 0.28-3.61).
This study demonstrates the need to consider a past history of domestic abuse in patients presenting with CSS; and also consider preventative approaches in mitigating the risk of developing CSS following exposure to domestic abuse.