OBJECTIVES - To examine whether high trait anger-out chronic low back (CLBP) patients would show exceptionally large symptom-specific lower paraspinal (LP) responses, compared with healthy nonpatients, during pain induction, a subsequent mental stressor, and recovery when they were urged to suppress awareness of pain and suffering.
METHODS - CLBP patients (n = 93) and nonpatients (n = 105) were assigned randomly to one of four attention strategy conditions for use during pain induction: sensory-focus, distraction, suppression, or control. All participants underwent a cold pressor, and then performed mental arithmetic. They completed the anger-out (AOS) and anger-in (AIS) subscales of the Anger Expression Inventory.
RESULTS - General Linear Model procedures were used to test Attention Strategy Condition x Patient/Nonpatient Status x AOS (or AIS) x Period interactions for physiological indices. Significant interactions were found such that: a) high trait anger-out patients in the Suppression condition seemed to show the greatest LP reactivity during the mental arithmetic followed by the slowest recovery compared with other conditions; b) high trait anger-out patients and nonpatients in the Suppression condition seemed to show the slowest systolic blood pressure recoveries compared with other conditions.
CONCLUSIONS - Results extend previous work by suggesting that an anger-out style moderates effects of how attention is allocated during pain on responses to and recovery from a subsequent mental stressor. Results provide further evidence that trait anger-out and trait anger-in among CLBP patients are associated with increased LP muscle tension during and after pain and mental stress.