Social support and pain behavior
Research has shown that social support is generally associated with better adaptation to chronic disease. However, the role that social support plays in adjustment to chronic pain syndromes has received less research attention. The present study was designed to examine the relation of high versus low levels of social support to pain behavior in chronic pain patients. Fifty-one patients with chronic pain completed the Social Support Questionnaire (SSQ) and the McGill Pain Questionnaire. Patients were also observed using a standard observation system to assess pain behaviors. In order to compare pain behaviors displayed by subjects with high versus low levels of social support, a median split was performed on the 2 dimensions of the SSQ: (1) satisfaction with support and (2) availability of people for support. The results indicated that pain behavior varied as a function of level of satisfaction with social support. Individuals reporting high satisfaction with social support exhibited significantly higher levels of total pain behavior and higher levels of individual pain behaviors such as guarding, rubbing and bracing. There was no significant difference in total pain behaviors between those high versus low in terms of level of availability of support. There also were no differences between high versus low social support groups in total pain ratings as measured by the McGill Pain Questionnaire. The results are discussed in terms of an operant conditioning perspective on social support. Individuals who are satisfied with the quality of their social support may be satisfied because they receive positive reinforcement from the social environment when they engage in pain behavior.